Temple University has been keeping a keen eye on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to “protect its students, faculty and staff.”
Temple spokesman Brandon Lausch said the university contacted students from affected countries in mid-August about health monitoring and preventative measures.
There were no issues of the deadly virus reported as concerning the Temple community. The 21-day incubation period has passed, assuring there is currently no threat on Main Campus.
As fall and winter breaks near, school officials express concern about students’ travel plans.
“We are reaching out to [a] handful of students to get an assessment on their travel plans,” Lausch said. “There are no specific plans at this time.”
International Student and Scholar Services sent an email to international students from Ebola-affected countries on Oct. 22. The email is personalized for each student and asks if a student is planning to travel to his or her home country.
Omobolanle Adisa received one such email, which states, “If you do plan to travel to Nigeria, please let me know at your earliest convenience so that we can set up a time to discuss current protocols.”
According to the CDC, the outbreak is based in West African countries Guinea, Liberia and Seirra Leone. The total death count in those countries is close to 5,000.
Nigeria was declared free of Ebola by the World Health Organization on Oct. 20, two days before the email was sent.
“I don’t know why I got the email, because it was after Nigeria was cleared,” the freshman political science major said. “That’s what concerned me.”
Nigeria’s last reported case was in early September, according to International SOS. Adisa said she was upset because she feels the university is “generalizing and lumping Africa into one big country, when it’s different countries under one big continent.”
The outbreak in Nigeria started in July, when someone from Liberia traveled into the country.
“I didn’t have any issues traveling here [for the beginning of the school year],” Adisa said. “The school didn’t contact me at all.”
Adisa does not plan on contacting International Student and Scholar Services to let them know of her plans “because Nigeria is not an issue.”
While Adisa fears any detection of the virus on Main Campus, she said she wishes the school was more “sensitive about how [they] contact us and handle it.”
“Don’t make it feel like we’ll automatically get the disease once we enter our respective country,” she added.
The situation for Adisa may have been controlled, but that is not the case for Temple student and Liberia-native Adrienne Tingba.
“All of my family lives there, and although they have the means and education to take preventative measures, I am worried about them, because it’s easier to contract it there than over here,” said Tingba, a junior criminal justice major.
According to Tingba, who is in constant communication with her family, the virus is located in the cities more than in the countrysides.
She also said most people get around by public transportation in the city, so “it’s easier for it to spread there.”
Tingba, who lives off campus, said her family won’t allow her to go back home for winter break.
She said one of her biggest concerns about being at Temple, though, is that students don’t have a very good understanding of the virus.
“I was out with my friends on campus and a group of Temple students were calling us ‘Ebola,’” Tingba said. “He was recording it. They were shouting, ‘Get out of here Ebola! Leave Ebola, leave Ebola!’”
Tingba said she believes this could have been prevented with proper education of the virus.
“I never felt anything like that on campus before, so I didn’t know how to react,” she said.
Provost Hai-Lung Dai sent out a mass email to the Temple community on Oct. 29. It stated that “Temple University does not typically support travel to countries or regions where a U.S. Department of State travel warning is in effect.”
Countries that students, faculty and staff are not permitted to travel to include Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, since the CDC has posted Warning Level 3 travel notices.
Nigeria was not listed.
“I just want to emphasize it is a relatively low risk situation, but we recognize the importance of creating standardized protocols and being prepared,” Lausch said. “We, as a university, are closely coordinating with the Temple Health System for training and equipment.”
As for Adisa, she hopes to be able to travel home for the summer.
Jane Babian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org