Ebola should not be taken lightly

Copyright: Kate Mitchell

Copyright: Kate Mitchell

Recently, it has become near impossible to avoid the panic over the recent outbreak of Ebola in multiple West African countries. Although the virus was discovered 40 years ago, the eruption of cases that began in March of this year is the largest and most complex since Ebola was discovered.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? It becomes even scarier when you imagine the virus infecting a fellow student. With the University of York catering for over 15,000 students, the consequences of even a single infection don’t bear thinking about.

It is the way Ebola is transmitted that makes our densely-populated campus such a potential danger zone. Human-to-human transmission of the virus occurs through direct contact with infected blood, bodily secretions and any materials with infected bodily fluids on them; the dangers of a one night stand could no longer just be STIs and a minor loss of dignity. Due to the ease with which Ebola is transmitted from person to person, it is clear to see how just one case on campus could have detrimental effects.

With fears of Ebola reaching the UK increasing daily, measures have quickly been taken to prevent an infected individual potentially entering the country. At numerous airports, passengers arriving on flights from West Africa are having their temperatures measured to check for any potential fever, an early symptom of the virus. After the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, admitted that by December we could have ten cases of Ebola in the UK, many deem this a necessary measure.

In addition to this, universities have been advised to monitor their student population for signs of a possible Ebola infection as the influx of international students from affected countries increases the risk. University cleaners have thus been told to keep an eye out for any blood or vomit in student accommodation. This is, arguably, not just for early detection, but for the safety of the cleaners themselves, as the nature of their job puts them at a greater risk; they often come into contact with bodily fluids while cleaning.

However, this is not happening at the University of York. Public Health England have deemed the risk of infection here “low”, and the University has very, very few students from any of the affected regions. In fact, all of these students have now been here for longer than the incubation period.

The University does seem to be doing all it can. They are constantly reviewing the situation, like many universities throughout the country. York does plan to offer advice if the risks rise at any point, nationally or locally, to a level of concern.

With the likelihood of Ebola taking hold in the UK classified as “low”, is it really necessary to get cleaners to check?

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