2014 Archives

SMU Oct. 24 Update on Ebola Situation in Dallas

October 24, 2014

Dear members of the University community,

As promised, we are providing updates on developments related to the Ebola situation in Dallas, as we receive new information. Toward that end, we want to inform you that two SMU graduate students have told University officials that they were passengers on the October 10 Frontier Airlines flight from Dallas to Cleveland that included a Presbyterian Hospital nurse who later tested positive for the Ebola virus.  Neither SMU student was a passenger on the Frontier return flight to Dallas, when the nurse was reportedly showing symptoms. 

Both students are considered at extremely low risk, but out of sensitivity to the University community, both have volunteered to remain off campus at their homes in Dallas for the 21-day monitoring period, going above and beyond CDC requirements or recommendations. Along with other passengers on the flights taken by the nurse, the students are being monitored as a precaution.

The two unrelated graduate students, both of whom live alone, are working closely with CDC and county officials. They are monitoring and reporting their temperatures and keeping in daily touch with health officials.  They are working with their professors on arrangements to continue their studies, and SMU is providing assistance to facilitate their remaining home-bound.

If any other members of the campus community were on the Frontier flights in question between Dallas and Cleveland, they should contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1-800-232-4636 or the SMU Health Center at 214-768-2141 to determine if they should be monitored as a precaution.

At the same time, there is little risk to the University community from this situation, according to medical experts. As a reminder, the disease is developed only after close contact with the bodily fluids of a person who has developed symptoms. 

On October 24, the National Institutes of Health announced that one of the two Dallas nurses diagnosed with Ebola, Nina Pham, has been successfully treated and is now free of the virus. The other nurse, Amber Vinson, is reportedly doing well at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. 

In Dallas, 66 individuals who were being quarantined because of close contact with the first Ebola patient have been cleared to resume their normal activities; none has developed the disease. Most of the individuals still being monitored are health care workers. 

In addition, medical experts are urging against overreactions based on fear, rather than science. On Oct. 17, the 7,000-member Dallas County Medical Society said that “keeping all schools open, including schools that have children of parents who are being monitored, presents no risk to students or teachers and sends an important message of allaying fears in the community.”

Please see the University’s health information on the home page at www.smu.edu and related links to external health information sources. We are in close touch with health officials and are monitoring best practices. The SMU site also includes University health and counseling services available to all students.

We appreciate your patience and support, and we will do our best to keep you informed of any further developments on this matter.

     

October 18, 2014: Update on Ebola Situation

SMU understands the interest in developments related to the Ebola situation in Dallas. We want you to know that SMU is monitoring the situation, is sharing updated information with the campus community, and has protocols in place to deal with any threat of illness.

First, it is important to be aware of how the disease is spread — NOT through casual contact, but only through close contact with the body fluids of someone who is actively exhibiting symptoms of the illness. For this reason, the risk is low for members of the general population who have not had such close contact. We are aware that some SMU students live in the neighborhood of one of the nurses affected, but geographic proximity alone is not enough to put a person at risk. We encourage you to consult the information sources listed on SMU’s Health and Safety homepage or through the SMU Parents blog.

Because both Ebola patients have been transferred to hospitals outside Texas, there is currently no active case of Ebola in Texas, though some Dallas individuals who had previous close contact with those patients are being monitored as a precaution.

A core group of SMU officials — experts in health, security, and crisis management — is meeting daily and is in contact every day with local, state and federal health officials to guide SMU actions. Even though the risk of Ebola is low, SMU is taking some extra actions, most of which would normally be implemented at this time to prevent the flu, which is much more likely to affect our community.

Steps include:

  • Increased posting of information on campus about personal hygiene and health measures, such as careful hand washing and covering of coughs and sneezes.
  • Heightened sanitization measures across campus, such as frequent cleansing of buses and golf carts serving the campus, as well as high-touch surfaces in facilities; food-handling guidelines; immediate clean-up of spills using protective measures; availability of sanitizer dispensers in buildings.
  • More frequent cleaning of campus residential facilities.
  • Continuous training to address emerging needs.
  • Oversight of foreign travel involving SMU students, faculty and staff.  SMU also supports CDC travel advisories for universities. Currently the CDC has a Level 3 Warning urging all U.S. citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone because of the Ebola outbreak.

We appreciate the questions regarding SMU procedures for assisting students who are feeling ill. As always, SMU students experiencing symptoms of any illness are urged to seek assistance from the SMU Health Center or other nearby medical providers and to stay home from school or work.  In case of a health emergency, students should call SMU Police at 214-768-3333 or 911. Dallas Emergency Medical Services directs ambulances to area hospitals based on the circumstances of each case. At this time, there are no emergency transports to Presbyterian Hospital.

All students who contact the Health Center are screened through a series of questions related to risk factors, such as travel and other recent activities. If a student calls ahead for an appointment, and the phone screening indicates a possible risk of Ebola-like symptoms, the student will be instructed to isolate himself or herself and immediately call 911.  If a student goes in person to the Health Center and is thought to be at risk for Ebola, measures are in place to isolate the student immediately and contact 911. Safeguards and appropriate protective equipment, as needed, will be utilized during the patient encounter. If the screening shows no history of possible exposure to an Ebola patient, and the student shows symptoms of the flu, a nurse will take vitals, a physician will examine and treat the student, and the student will be advised to stay home until symptoms subside.  

For students who would like to discuss this situation with professional counselors and other staff, several resources are available:

  • For health questions or concerns, please contact the SMU Health Center, 214-768-2141.
  • For confidential counseling, contact Counseling and Psychiatric Services, 214-768-2277, or the Chaplain’s Office, 214-768-4502.
  • Faculty or staff with concerns about students may contact the Office of the Dean of Student Life, 214-768-4564, or visit Caring Community Connections.

We are committed to helping our students, faculty and staff to continue their studies and work uninterrupted, while we monitor the situation and act on the basis of factual information.