Ebola impacting study abroad trips

The Ebola outbreaks ravaging in parts of Africa, may impact Georgia State’s current and future study abroad trips.

Ebola, a rare and fatal virus transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids, contaminated objects and infected animals in Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC states the disease is present in areas of Africa including Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. Sierra Leone and more recently the Democratic Republic of Congo have all had outbreaks.

Georgia State’s study abroad trips will be held in the northwestern countries of Morocco and Tunisia. The trips will also venture to South Africa and Tanzania, according to the Georgia State’s study abroad website.

Kristen Nordlund, Health Communications Specialist for the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, said the CDC has recommendations for colleges and students who plan travel to and from West Africa.

“Student health centers should follow the same recommendations as those for other U.S. healthcare workers and settings,” Nordlund noted the CDC stating. “Colleges and universities should ensure that student health center staff are aware of the signs and symptoms of Ebola and are prepared to follow CDC recommendations.”

Students, faculty and staff who have recently traveled to countries where Ebola resides should talk to school authorities about what steps should be taken and monitor their health for 21 days after returning, according to the CDC.

The CDC also urges for non-essential travel trips to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone be postponed and for those traveling to Nigeria to use safety measures.

Ryan Rathmann, Interim Director of Georgia State Study Abroad Programs, said students should be concerned about Ebola as global citizens by utilizing the assets of the faculty members who lead study abroad programs.

“Before any student participates in one of our programs, directors will ensure that students are well prepared for the culture and hazards (and much more) of their host country/countries through organized pre-departure orientations,” he said.

Rathmann also said study abroad programs directors’ roles are to address the concerns students have about going abroad.

“…I certainly expect that the Ebola outbreak will be a primary topic to be addressed this year,” he said. “And of course, as we continue to monitor all channels on the devastating outbreak in West Africa, we will ensure that our programs continue to operate within the guidelines of the Administrative Council and those critical State Department Warnings.”

Rathmann said he doesn’t know what non-Georgia State study abroad providers, AIFS, CEA and CIEE have planned, but the study abroad policy will be the same for Georgia State students who apply.

Melissa Ramos, a junior political science major, said she is planning on studying abroad in France and would like to later do study abroad in Africa to learn about the culture, but the outbreak doesn’t scare her.

“I guess I personally don’t fear getting sick or anything,” she said.

The CDC states it could take at least six months to get the outbreak under control and suggests for people returning from affected countries to receive education. The education would encompass how to look for and promptly report symptoms of the disease/virus.

The symptoms include fever, stomach pain and muscle pain. Headaches, vomiting and diarrhea are also symptoms and Ebola may take 2-21 days to display, according to the CDC.

Some of the study abroad programs going to Africa include: Race, Gender and Class in Contemporary South Africa, Embracing Indigenous Mathematical Knowledge Systems in South Africa and Ethnomathematics in Morocco, according to the study abroad office.

The programs are subject to change and are dependent on student enrollment, according to Rathmann.