While U.S. health officials are warning against traveling to three West African countries where an outbreak of Ebola is occurring, the risk of the disease being spread in Minnesota remains very low, state health officials said today. The travel advisory applies to non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
To address concerns about the outbreak and the risks from travel to those countries, experts from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and a variety of local public health and safety partners will host an informational session Wednesday, Aug. 6 in Brooklyn Center. The meeting will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Brooklyn Center Community Activities, Recreation and Services Department, 6301 Shingle Creek Parkway, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430.
The community meeting will be an opportunity for health experts to share facts about how Ebola is spread, how it can be prevented, how health officials in Minnesota are responding to the international situation, and to answer questions and concerns from community members.
Because Ebola has been in the news frequently in recent days, MDH officials re-emphasized key points about the disease for all Minnesotans:
• No cases of Ebola have occurred in the United States.
• Ebola is transmitted by contact with blood and body fluids of someone who is ill with Ebola or has died of Ebola. Ebola can also be transmitted by contact with items contaminated by blood or body fluids of a person infected with Ebola. Ebola is not transmitted by casual contact with someone who has traveled to West Africa.
• Transmission of the virus continues to occur in Africa largely because of inadequate infection control, poor medical facilities and health care conditions and certain cultural practices that increase people's exposure.
• We have surveillance systems in place to identify individuals who might become ill while traveling.
• Since the start of the outbreak, MDH has sent several health alerts to Minnesota health care providers advising them to be aware of and on the lookout for anyone presenting with symptoms of Ebola and other diseases of concern with a recent travel history to these regions and to report those cases immediately to us. MDH regularly receives calls from providers and have ruled out suspected cases of novel influenza (H7N9), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Ebola. Our surveillance system is working.
• CDC makes recommendations related to travel. Currently there is a travel advisory related to Ebola and travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. This can be found at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.
• MDH follows CDC's guidelines for personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders (PDF): http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/pdf/InfectControl98.pdf. CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) are not recommending that we change our universal precautions procedures in dealing with individuals in any community.