Environmental Health & Safety

Ebola - Information and Updates

October 2014

In an effort to educate and reassure the local community about Ebola Virus or Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, Amherst College, in cooperation with the Town of Amherst Emergency Services, the Board of Health and the Five Colleges developed this information fact sheet, based on the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH).

Although the risk of contracting Ebola in the United States is extremely low, public health agencies – including Health Services and Environmental Health & Safety from the Five Colleges and Boards of Health – are taking all the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the entire community.

Five College members already have protocols in place for dealing with many different types of public health issues, but out of an abundance of caution they have also developed a specific plan to respond in the unlikely event that the diagnosis of a case of Ebola directly affecting our community emerges.

In addition, the group is closely monitoring the outbreak in West Africa and the situation in Dallas, Texas, and meets with the local officials, hospitals and emergency response agencies regularly to assess any potential implications for our community.

The following is an overview of our protocols, as well as responses to particular areas of concern, as they pertain to Ebola.

What is Ebola?

  • Ebola is a severe, often fatal disease, discovered in 1976, near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • It affects humans and other non-human primates, such as chimps, gorillas and monkeys.
  • There has been ongoing transmission in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
  • While it is dangerous, Ebola is not always fatal; some people will recover.

How Ebola is transmitted?

  • It is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads from human to human through direct contact, such as when broken skin or mucous membranes come into contact with blood and other body fluids including, but not limited to vomit, saliva and sweat, or needles contaminated with infected bodily fluids.
  • Ebola is NOT airborne, foodborne or waterborne.
  • Families and friends in close contact with ill patient(s) or those who have died of Ebola are at greatest risk.

What are the symptoms of Ebola?

  • Symptoms—which begin abruptly—can include diarrhea, fever, severe headache, muscle and stomach pain and abnormal bleeding and bruising.
  • Signs and symptoms may appear anywhere from 2-21 days after exposure, although 8-10 days is most common.

What is the risk of contracting Ebola in the Five College community?

  • The countries in West Africa with Ebolavirus cases are not popular destinations for research or study abroad programs, and very few students from that area of West Africa are enrolled at the Five Colleges. The institutions in the Five Colleges are contacting those from the affected countries and taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the community should these individuals return to our area.
  • All travelers should heed with great attention related announcements from the CDC, including as they relate to the situation in Texas.

Should travel to that part of West Africa be cancelled?

  • Faculty, staff, and students of the Five Colleges should postpone travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, as the level 3 warning from the CDC against any nonessential travel has been issued.
  • Those who have been in contact with an ill individual from one of these countries within the last 21 days should contact their respective health care facility or primary care physician. Additionally, before returning to campus they should contact their own campus’ Health Services. At Amherst College, students should contact the Student Affairs Office, as Health Services may not be open at the time.
  • The Five Colleges urges anyone who may be aware of visitors that are coming to the community from affected areas of West Africa to refer those visitors to the CDC guidelines and ask them to delay their arrival until 21 days after their possible contact with infected individuals. Those who suspect that they could have come in contact with this virus should contact their health care provider.
  • The CDC has issued a level 2 warning for enhanced precautions for travel to Nigeria. 

What is being done to monitor the students who came from the affected countries?

  • The CDC, through the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency, has stepped up their protocols at the larger airports by concentrating on airlines coming from the affected areas. The agency is concentrating on all ill travelers, regardless of whether or not they have all of the appropriate signs and symptoms.
  • If necessary, we will follow the recommendations of the CDC, NIH and MADPH by monitoring temperatures of students who have reason to believe they were exposed to a person with Ebola within the previous 21 days.
  • It is important to stress that even if students from Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone report what appear to be relevant symptoms (fever, vomiting, diarrhea), these individuals are not considered a suspected case unless they have either known or potential exposure to the virus.

What do I do if I start to feel sick? 

  • Returning to Campus - if you are experiencing symptoms of any infectious illness, please delay your return to campus until you have recovereand are no longer contagious.
  • On Campus - If while on campus you experience signs of illness, especially fever, vomiting, diarrhea, severe headache or stomach pain, weakness or unusual bleeding or bruising, please contact Health Services at 413-542-2267 Monday - Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Afterhours and over the weekend, call the Amherst College Police Department at 413-542-2111.
  • If you believe that you could have been exposed to Ebola, even remotely, or if you have been out of the country within the last 21 days and have flu-like symptoms with severe headache and muscle pain, please contact Health Services or Amherst College Police Department by phone, first. Be prepared to answer questions about recent travel history and your signs and symptoms so that emergency response agencies such as ACEMS, Amherst College Police Department and Amherst Fire Department Ambulance can properly prepare for patient care. All emergency response agencies have been instructed to begin their initial assessment of patients from a slight distance until the level of risk has been established.

Where can I get more information?

[Quick Links]
Quick Links
  • Chemical Inventory System
  • Incident Report Forms
  • MSDS On-Line
  • Permit Application Forms – Town of Amherst
  • Sustainability
  • Water Quality Report – Town of Amherst