Tags: Ebola Outbreak | ebola | fear | schools | classrooms

US Parents Confront Fear of Ebola in Classroom

Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 09:51 AM

A visibly nervous Qeuna Dawson on Friday walked her two boys to the Jack Lowe Elementary School in Dallas, where a student was removed after coming into contact with the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
 
"I wanted to keep my boys home but they told me the school is safe. But if I hear of one child sneezing, those boys are staying home," said Dawson, who lives a stone's throw from the spot where the infected man was rushed to a hospital.

At ground zero of the U.S. Ebola scare, many parents have faced the question of whether to pull their children out of neighborhood schools, which officials have reassured them are safe.
 
"This is a deadly disease. It's just crazy," Dawson said.

In U.S. cities with large populations of immigrants from West Africa, where the largest outbreak of Ebola on record has killed more than 3,400 people, school boards are trying to tamp down any panic about Ebola.

At Sam Tasby Middle School, in the same Dallas neighborhood where the Ebola patient stayed briefly, a message was posted on a sign outside the school on Friday: "Children First. Our School is Safe."

But while Dallas has mostly kept its cool over the Ebola case, attendance has dropped at the four schools that were attended by the children who had direct contact with the infected man, Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan. Those children have been removed from school for monitoring.

Attendance was 10 percent lower from normal levels, early figures from the Dallas Independent School District show.

The school board has equipped maintenance workers with protective gear and had them scrubbing schools, deployed nurses and set up a hotline so parents can call for updates.

It also sent a notice in English, Arabic, Nepali, Burmese and Vietnamese to parents and guardians in the patient's melting pot neighborhood of Vickery Meadow, saying there is no imminent danger to children.

"As more information gets out, people calm down a little bit," said Mike Miles, the Dallas Independent School District superintendent.

In other parts of the country that also have sizable populations of Liberian immigrants, officials and residents have reacted to the Ebola outbreak.

In Rhode Island, state public health officials have been briefing school nurses since the academic year began on how to screen patients for Ebola.

About 200 miles south in New York City, in a neighborhood on Staten Island known as Little Liberia for its large population of immigrants from Liberia other West African nations, many were fearful.

Nicole Martinez, 23, said employees of her daycare center have taken to wearing latex hospital gloves when in contact with children.

"We've taken this precaution because we have children with families in the parts of Africa with Ebola," she said.

At an elementary school in the same New York neighborhood, one parent said his children were told to limit physical contact with other students. 

"Don't shake hands, don't wrestle with friends like you used to," said Ibraheem Fallay, 40, a Liberian-American, as he waited on the school's stairs for his eldest daughter, Bintou.

Concerns about Ebola were not limited to primary schools.

At Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut, two graduate epidemiology students who had traveled to Liberia to advise the Health Ministry on using computers to track the virus will spend 21 days in isolation before returning to classes, Paul Cleary, dean of the Yale School of Public Health, said in a letter to faculty and staff.

Back in Dallas, Larry Lewis said he is not living in fear and has sent his 10-year-old daughter to school to be with her friends and teachers.

"Even if there is an epidemic of Biblical proportions lurking out there, we have to keep on living," he said.

© 2017 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

   
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A visibly nervous Qeuna Dawson on Friday walked her two boys to the Jack Lowe Elementary School in Dallas, where a student was removed after coming into contact with the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. I wanted to keep my boys home but they told me...
ebola, fear, schools, classrooms
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2014-51-04
Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 09:51 AM
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