By Stephen Weiner
Contributing Writer

Last week, Emory issued new guidelines prohibiting travel to any country affected by the Ebola virus disease (EVD).

According to a Nov. 7 University press release, the guidelines prohibit any travel to Ebola-affected countries through Emory-sponsored programs and highly discourage personal travel to the affected West African areas as well.

In particular, the guidelines apply to all Emory faculty, staff or students traveling to Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea and are effective immediately.

These countries were chosen because they are the three for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 travel warning. The CDC has been one of the leaders in the fight against Ebola, both in the U.S. and internationally.

According to Emory’s Vice Provost of International Affairs Philip Wainwright, the CDC had previously implemented the Level 3 warning for these three countries as a means of discouraging all U.S. residents from any non-essential travel to these regions.

Now, Wainwright said, Emory will formally restrict travel to affected areas by Emory-sponsored programs while the Level 3 warning is in effect. There is currently a high level of involvement by Emory programs in those regions, mostly comprised of health workers and other specialists.

“We really wanted to get these guidelines out before the holiday season as a means of discouraging travel by Emory faculty, staff and students to areas affected by the Ebola virus,” Wainwright said. “We recognize the need for health workers in affected areas and still support volunteer efforts there as long as certain procedures are followed.”

Most of these procedures were outlined in preliminary guidelines issued by Emory in August for students, staff, faculty and physicians returning from any countries affected by Ebola.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, chair of the Hubert Department of Global Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health, was one of the Emory faculty who worked on the guidelines. Emphasizing at the time that Ebola posed little risk to the U.S., Emory implemented procedures for anyone feeling symptomatic after their return, del Rio said. Specifically, the August guidelines stated that anyone returning from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia or Nigeria who exhibited an elevated temperature, joint/ muscle aches, stomach aches, lack of appetite or other symptoms of infection should not report to work or school and notify Health Services immediately if symptoms worsened.

He emphasizes that although these guidelines may seem general, “there is plenty of room to strengthen them if the virus continues its spread or, hopefully, if it dies down.” He added, “while we have chosen these guide- lines, we still cannot stop health care workers or volunteers from traveling to those regions.”

The release of the new guidelines comes as Emory has received extensive coverage for the treatment of several Ebola-infected patients at Emory University Hospital. The fourth patient treated for Ebola at the Hospital was released symptom-free on Oct. 30.

Over 14,000 people have been infected by the recent Ebola outbreak, almost all in West Africa, while the death toll has risen to 5,160, according to the most recent numbers from the World Health Organization.

– By Stephen Weiner, Contributing Writer