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Special Topics - Ebola


JHU Travel Guidance 

University Faculty and Staff (Excluding School of Medicine)

All faculty members must notify their dean and department chair prior to departure for one of the affected countries in West Africa. All staff members must notify their immediate supervisor and divisional or unit leader (such as a dean, vice president or executive director) prior to departure. Both faculty members and staff members must register travel plans through the Johns Hopkins International Travel Registry (JHITR).

Graduate Students/Trainees (Not School of Medicine and Not Involved in Clinical Care)

Graduate students must notify their dean and department chair. In addition, they must sign a waiver, complete a travel checklist and register in JHITR.

All Travelers upon Return from Affected Countries

Occupational Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Johns Hopkins Infection Control will make a determination about a returnee’s level of exposure. Based on risk, they will determine if the returnee can return immediately to school or work (even non-clinical work) or needs to remain at home in quarantine. All individuals must receive authorization to return to school or work from Occupational Health or the appropriate student health service. Travelers must contact student health or Occupational Health upon their return and, until they receive other instructions, must follow CEPAR interim guidance for returning travelers. In addition, all persons who travel to these areas must record a symptom/fever diary daily for 21 days upon their return and notify Occupational Health or Student Health if any symptoms develop. Anyone with a CDC-defined high-risk exposure is not to return to school or work for 21 days following the exposure. If you develop Ebola-related symptoms, contact Occupational Health or the appropriate student health service immediately by phone.

For School of Medicine guidelines, please visit JHU.


How can you get infected with Ebola?

You can be infected with the Ebola virus by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of someone who is sick with Ebola. (Bodily fluids, according to the Centers for Disease Control, include “urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen.” You could also be infected by needles or syringes contaminated with the virus or by contact with infected fruit bats or primates (like apes and monkeys).

What are some ways you can’t get infected with Ebola?

You cannot be infected with Ebola by contact with someone who is not ill. If a person is infected, but not exhibiting symptoms of Ebola, that person cannot infect you. You cannot be infected by casual (non-blood and non-body fluid) contact even with someone who is sick with Ebola. You can’t get it through the air, through water, or through food grown or legally purchased in the United States. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola.

Am I at risk for Ebola by doing what I do every day?

Going to class, attending programs, going out for coffee or participating in other typical activities are not risk factors for contracting Ebola. In the United States, we are at very low risk for an Ebola outbreak.

How can you say we are at low risk when so many people have died?

Nearly everyone who has died from the current Ebola outbreak has died in West Africa or contracted the disease there. Health care systems there are resource-poor compared with the United States. Given limited resources, it has been difficult for West African countries to give patients the medical support they need to be able to survive. It also has been difficult to supply health care providers with equipment needed to protect them from infection. And public health authorities have had to combat certain cultural norms that have accelerated the spread of the disease.

How is the situation different in the United States?

The U.S. health care system has far more resources; we can give patients the kind of supportive care that may help them recover. U.S. health care is also quickly coming up to speed on caring for Ebola patients in ways that are safe for doctors and nurses and prevent the spread of disease. At the Johns Hopkins Hospital, for instance, infectious disease experts and other health care professionals have been preparing for months to care safely for Ebola patients. So far, there have been none.

Do I need to worry about coming into contact with Johns Hopkins people who’ve been in West Africa?

No, and for several reasons. First, there are very few Johns Hopkins travelers to West Africa. Second, some travel there but do not treat Ebola patients, so they have little risk of exposure. Third, anyone who returns from West Africa – after caring for patients or not – is subject to the Johns Hopkins travel guidance for Ebola-affected countries.

What does the travel guidance require?

All travelers embarking on School-affiliated trips abroad should register in the Johns Hopkins International Travel Registry so that we can assist in safety precautions as needed before and following travel. The guidance requires a risk assessment and authorization from the university before a traveler coming back from Ebola-affected countries returns to school or work. At the least, the traveler will be required to keep a symptom diary for 21 days, the maximum incubation time for Ebola virus. Anyone considered high-risk for exposure will be required to remain away from school or work for 21 days.

Do I need to worry that the Johns Hopkins Hospital has been designated as one of Maryland’s three centers for treatment of Ebola patients?

No, and for a couple of reasons. First, to date, there have been no Ebola patients at any Johns Hopkins hospital. Second, infectious disease experts and other health care professionals at the Johns Hopkins Hospital have been preparing for months to isolate and care safely for any Ebola patients. In fact, the federal Centers for Disease Control recently picked our Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety to lead the creation of interactive online training for putting on protective gear properly and removing it safely.

What can I do to help?

One thing you can do is get your annual flu vaccination for 2014-15. This is always important: The CDC recommends annual flu shots for almost everyone over age 6 months. But it’s even more important this year. People are anxious about Ebola, so we really want to minimize any chance of confusion caused by cases of flu, which can have some of the same symptoms. If you’re immunized and don’t get the flu, then there’s no chance that someone will mistake a common illness for Ebola and overreact.

Also, wash your hands. Frequently.

Another thing you can do is donate to the effort to deal with Ebola in West Africa. There are some suggestions here for organizations you can support, including one at Johns Hopkins.

How do I stay up to date?

Check in frequently at the Johns Hopkins Ebola Readiness website.

These questions and answers were compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Office of Communications with the assistance of the Student Health and Wellness Center and the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. Sources of information include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contact the Office of Communications with questions or suggestions.