How the University at Albany is dealing with Ebola
By Kyle Plaske
A committee of University at Albany officials is continuing to monitor the Ebola outbreak raging through West Africa, despite the comparatively low risk the disease poses to the UAlbany community.
“The university has a standing committee on emergency management, and so when the CDC started sending out notices on Ebola we got together and discussed the situation,” said Ed Engelbride, Associate Vice President for Student Success.
The committee determined that the Ebola virus, which is primarily affecting the West African Nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, poses little risk to the health and safety of students here in Albany.
The committee, which is officially named the UAlbany Emergency Advisory Committee, includes 31 members and is co-chaired by Lisa Donahue of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety and Aran Mull of the University Police Department. Dr. Peter Vellis, director of the University Health Center was present at the meeting, which took place on Aug. 12. Ray Bromley, Vice Provost for International Education, also attended.
“We have 1,750 international students this semester, the overwhelming majority of which come from East Asian countries,” Bromley said in an interview.
According to a UAlbany Profile of International Students and Scholars issued last fall, African students represented 2.36 percent of the whole international student population.
“I find it sad that we don’t have much contact with Africa, but it’s the weak spot in terms of connections with this university,” said Bromley.
UAlbany offers limited study abroad opportunities in Africa, with approximately 10 students per semester choosing to study at affiliated universities in South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya.
According to Bromley, it is important to remember that out of the total countries in Africa, currently only six have been affected by the virus, and only three of those six have had “serious problems.”
“Our study abroad students are located in countries thousands of miles from the affected areas.” Bromley said. “We have no programs in those countries, and we don’t send study abroad students there.The Center for International Development program in the Ivory Coast is the nearest connection we have.”
The CID program, part of UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, aims to provide technical assistance to strengthen the effectiveness of the Ivory Coast’s national legislature, according to project director Dr. David E. Guinn.
Guinn and his staff travel frequently to the Ivory Coast, and have not been forced to cancel any travel arrangements this semester due to Ebola in the surrounding areas (the Ivory Coast borders both Guinea and Sierra Leone.)
“We are in regular contact with the USAID Mission in the embassy and there are no travel warnings for the Ivory Coast based on the Ebola outbreak,” Guinn said in an email interview. “Indeed, we do work in the provinces and there are no restrictions on travel in the country as of yet.” The CID has no programs in any of the affected countries, he added.
Despite the low probability of Ebola reaching the UAlbany community, it is crucial for travelers returning from affected areas to monitor their own health for at least 21 days, according to CDC recommendations.
“The only thing we can do is plead for people to be personally responsible,” Bromley said.