MIT continues to monitor the Ebola outbreak in the West African countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, which has now resulted in the death of the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. — a Liberian man who became ill soon after his arrival in Dallas.
The Institute began responding to the Ebola crisis in mid-August, when an MIT researcher who was in one of the affected countries was contacted and advised to return to the United States. MIT Medical then directly contacted other new and returning students and staff from affected countries to identify their level of risk.
“This was a very small number of individuals,” says MIT Medical’s associate medical director, Howard Heller, an infectious disease specialist, adding that all have remained well.
“MIT has plans in place for dealing with outbreaks of contagious diseases that could potentially affect the MIT community,” Heller emphasizes. “The MIT Security and Emergency Management Office (SEMO), in collaboration with MIT Medical, state and city health departments, and local hospitals, are equipped to manage the evaluation and treatment of persons diagnosed with, or suspected of having, Ebola.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding nonessential travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and practicing enhanced precautions if traveling to Nigeria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nigeria has seen 20 cases of Ebola, but experts believe the outbreak there is now contained. A recent, small Ebola outbreak in Congo is unrelated to the outbreak in the other countries.
MIT travelers can review MIT’s Travel Risk Policy webpage for the Institute’s most recent recommendations. Questions about trip cancellations or other travel matters should be directed to the MIT Travel Office. Further information about Ebola symptoms and precautions can be found on the CDC website.
For the foreseeable future, any MIT students or staff who are planning travel to one of the three affected countries should contact MIT Medical (Howard Heller, 617-253-1615, firstname.lastname@example.org) before leaving or immediately upon return. MIT community members should also contact MIT Medical if they are hosting family or friends who are visiting from an affected country.
Members of the MIT community may have friends, relatives, or research collaborators who are more closely affected by this crisis in parts of West Africa. MIT Medical and other areas of the Institute are available to provide support. Visit MIT Together, or call MIT Medical at 617-253-4481, to learn about available resources.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Heller says, “and we will keep the community informed. Our recommendations and outreach efforts may change as the situation evolves.”