Officials stress risk of Ebola is low in Ohio

Published 10:42 am Thursday, October 16, 2014

AKRON (AP) — Ohio officials have stressed that the risk of contracting Ebola in the state is slim and reminded the public that the Texas nurse who recently visited Ohio before being diagnosed with the virus was showing no symptoms during her visit.

State and local officials sought to ward off any public panic Wednesday following announcements that 29-year old Amber Vinson had visited the Akron area over the weekend and then flew back to Dallas from Cleveland before being diagnosed with Ebola.

Officials say Vinson didn’t exhibit Ebola symptoms while in Ohio. People infected with Ebola aren’t contagious until they get symptoms.

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Ohio has no cases of Ebola and many steps are being taken to limit further infection, officials said Wednesday. The Ohio Department of Health issued additional recommendations for dealing with Ebola to health care providers and health department officials across the state late Wednesday night.

Vinson had treated the Liberian man who died of the disease in a Dallas hospital. Medical records provided to The Associated Press by Thomas Eric Duncan’s family show that Vinson was actively engaged in caring for Duncan and that she inserted catheters, drew blood and dealt with Duncan’s body fluids.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson on Wednesday urged people to be reasonable and rely not on rumors but on facts.

“Is there a need for people to have precaution? Yes, there is,” Jackson said.

Emilia Sykes, who attended high school and Kent State University with Vinson, said the two had lost touch, but she was sad to see that her former classmate was infected with Ebola.

“She had always been very interested in health care,” said Sykes, of Akron, who is seeking to replace her term-limited father in the state legislature. “When I knew her, we lived on the same end of the dorm together our freshman year. She was working through the nursing program and always knew she’d be a nurse. And it’s really unfortunate to hear that this happened to her, but (I’m) definitely very proud of her for taking on such a task and being willing to put herself and her life in danger to help someone else.”

Sykes is a Democratic candidate for the Ohio House.

The Cleveland Clinic and The MetroHealth System said Wednesday that some of their nurses and other employees were on the same flight from Dallas that the nurse with Ebola took to Ohio. The employees — including five nurses from the Cleveland Clinic — are on paid leave as a precaution while their health is monitored.

The hospitals said they believe the employees’ risk of exposure was low because available information indicates the Texas nurse didn’t have symptoms during the Friday flight to Cleveland. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluid, not through the air.

At Kent State, the school announced that three employees related to Vinson have been asked to remain off campus for three weeks. Vinson didn’t visit campus during her recent trip, the school said. It isn’t identifying the related employees.

Officials in Summit County said one individual in Ohio who had household contact with Vinson self-quarantined at home Tuesday after Vinson’s family was notified that she developed Ebola symptoms. Officials didn’t identify the isolated person.

Police said Vinson stayed at the home of her mother and stepfather in Tallmadge, northeast of Akron. Police on Wednesday had the home cordoned off with yellow tape, and they were blocking the media from accessing the cul-de-sac on which it sits.

In the additional guidance sent Wednesday, the state recommended a 21-day quarantine for those who’ve had direct physical contact with an infected person without wearing protective equipment. Individuals who’ve been within a three-foot radius of an infected person for a prolonged period should report their temperatures twice a day, once witnessed by a public health official and once reported by phone. Those who’ve had no direct contact but have been in the vicinity of an infected person, as indicated by a health official, should self-monitor.

The state said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed to send a liaison to Ohio to help answer questions, along with at least one worker skilled in identifying who may have had contact with an infected person.

The Cleveland airport is implementing its infectious disease protocol. The plane on which Vinson flew back to Dallas was decontaminated twice and was to be used for a flight Wednesday that was later canceled.

The plane departed Wednesday evening for Denver carrying no passengers, said Jacqueline Mayo, Cleveland airports spokeswoman.