CDC Issues Guidance for Colleges and Universities about Ebola Outbreaks

September 8, 2014

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidance to colleges and universities on how to respond to the spread of Ebola in West Africa.  The guidance includes suggested precautions with respect to (a) study abroad programs, research and other education-related travel to the region, and (b) individuals arriving on campus from the region or otherwise known to have been exposed to Ebola. Recommendations on Education-Related Travel to Countries Where the Ebola Outbreaks are Occurring The CDC has issued a Warning-Level 3 Travel Notice for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and an Alert-Level 2 Travel Notice for Nigeria. The CDC recommends that all non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone be avoided, and advises that education-related travel to these countries by students and/or faculty be postponed until further notice.  The CDC has not yet advised against travel to Nigeria, but recommends that travelers to Nigeria use enhanced precautions to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.  In addition, the CDC cautions that if conditions worsen in Nigeria, it may additionally recommend against non-essential travel to Nigeria, and advises that institutions consider this possibility when deciding whether to proceed with education-related travel plans in Nigeria. These recommendations extend to all travelers, even if travelers do not plan to be in contact with people infected with the virus.  The CDC advises that there is currently no known risk of contracting Ebola in other countries in the West Africa region where Ebola cases have not been reported, but cautions that circumstances could change rapidly and advises institutions to continue to monitor the situation. Recommendations with Respect to Students and Faculty Arriving to Campus from Countries where the Ebola Outbreaks are Occurring or Otherwise Known to Have Been Exposed to the Virus The CDC is not recommending that institutions quarantine individuals based solely on travel history.  Rather, the CDC recommends that institutions conduct a symptom and risk exposure screening for all individuals (including students and faculty) who have traveled to countries where the Ebola outbreak is occurring, or who have had contact with an infected person, within the last 21 days.  In the event that symptom screening is positive or if a student or faculty member has had any high or low risk exposure, the institution is advised to notify state or local health authorities for instructions regarding medical monitoring, lab testing, and control measures such as patient quarantines or isolation. If an individual displays no symptoms and presents no known exposure risk, institutions are advised to instruct the individual to self-monitor through temperature and symptom reporting until the end of the 21 day period, and to report immediately if symptoms appear. Additional Guidance and Recommendations The CDC’s advice includes additional information as to how Ebola is, and is not, transmitted, and guidance as to corresponding cautionary measures for persons on campus.