How would GV handle an Ebola outbreak?

Alyssa Rettelle

The hype about the Ebola crisis has continued to spread, and people are beginning to worry that it could make its way to Michigan, or even Kent County. That’s why Grand Valley State University has created its own task force.

The task force consists of Andy Beachnau, the associate vice provost for student affairs; Jean Nagelkerk, the vice provost for health; Mark Schaub, the chief international officer; and Matt McLogan, the vice president for university relations.

The role of the task force is to be prepared to handle a campus Ebola issue if one were to arise. According to McLogan, the task force has identified university resources that could be tapped, and anything that they might deploy would be done in concert with the Kent and/or Ottawa County health departments under the guidance and protocols of the national Centers for Disease Control.

“At the present time, we do not have any faculty, staff or students in any of the three African countries that are the focus of the Ebola outbreak,” McLogan said. “Further, we are not aware of any member of our campus community who has been in contact with anyone on an Ebola watch. For now, this should reassure those who may be concerned.”

An employee in the facilities department at GVSU recently returned from Uganda in Central Africa, which is roughly 3,500 miles away from the western nations stricken with Ebola. Regardless, a few facilities services staff initially expressed their concerns about him returning to work. Tim Thimmesch, associate vice president of facilities services, said this was an educational opportunity for the department.

“The staff initially expressing their concern provided an educational opportunity within the department, and we were able to address their concerns,” he said. “Uganda is over 3,000 miles away from the West African countries that are dealing with this disease. Those of us in Michigan have cases in the U.S. that are much closer.”

The faculty in the College of Nursing have also been given resources to contact about the Ebola virus. They’re being told to speak with Carla Black, the emergency preparedness coordinator for the Kent County Health Department, as well as Lisa LaPlante, who works in the communications department.

Additionally, the College of Nursing has been spreading articles around from the American College Health Association, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Education Advisory Board. All three of these websites have articles dealing with the spread of Ebola and have been named national recommendations for universities to utilize.

According to the Center for Disease Control, Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth) with blood or bodily fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, objects (such as needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus, or infected fruit bats or primates. Ebola cannot be spread through the air or by water or, in general, by food.