Norwich schools, health district address Ebola concerns

Norwich - In response to recent phone calls from parents concerned about the potential for Ebola to reach city schools, Norwich school officials and the Uncas Health District will send a joint letter to parents this week explaining the deadly disease and the school system's precautions.

Superintendent Abby Dolliver said there is no immediate concern about potential Ebola exposure in city schools, and no recent immigrant students have arrived from the West African nations where Ebola outbreaks have occurred.

Dolliver said school officials have received several calls, ranging from questions of why Norwich hasn't closed all schools to "how are you going to control it?" Dolliver said the school system puts out a similar letter each year explaining the school system's response to outbreaks of the flu, so officials decided to issue a two-page letter outlining the facts and preparations on Ebola.

The letter, titled "Ebola Guidance for the Norwich Public Schools," is signed by Dolliver and Uncas Health District Director Patrick McCormack. The letter started with three bullet points giving the background of the outbreaks in West Africa with an Internet link to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website on Ebola.

"The chances of getting Ebola are extremely low unless a person traveled to an affected area and had direct contact with the blood or body fluids (e.g. blood, vomit, diarrhea) of an Ebola-infected person, or with objects soiled with that person's blood or body fluids," the letter stated.

The school system will use CDC-recommended responses for students and staff with possible exposure. If a student or staff member gets a fever or other early symptom of Ebola within 21 days of returning from an area affected by the Ebola outbreak, the person should consult a health care provider "right away," the letter said. The person also should inform the health care provider about the symptoms and circumstances before going to the doctor or emergency room.

If a staff member has traveled to a country with an Ebola outbreak and develops a fever or another early symptom, the staff member would be instructed to leave school and call his or her doctor. If a student who recently traveled to an Ebola-affected area develops a fever or other early symptom at school, the student would be seen by the school nurse.

"If the child needs to leave the school, the student should stay in a private room until parent pick-up," the letter said, "and the parent should be told to seek immediate medical advice and to tell a health care provider about the recent travel history before going to the office or emergency room."

Students or staff who get sick more than 21 days after returning from an Ebola-affected area are not at risk for Ebola, the letter stated.

McCormack said the Uncas Health District has not been getting many calls asking about Ebola. The health district has been involved in several presentations about Ebola for emergency management workers, nurses, American Red Cross volunteers and the district's medical reserve corps volunteers.

"We are touching base with people in venues to get the word out and give the resources," McCormack said. "Specific questions would come if there are cases. Fortunately, there haven't been any yet."

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

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