How Dallas schools are coping with parents' fears over Ebola case

Five Dallas schoolchildren are believed to have come in contact with the man being treated for the first known US case of Ebola. The children are not exhibiting any symptoms of the disease, the Dallas Independent School District superintendent said.

Tony Gutierrez/AP
Authorities say five students who had contact with a man diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas are being monitored but are showing no symptoms of the disease. According to DISD Superintendent Mike Miles, one or more of the students attended this school.

As word spread that five Dallas schoolchildren were believed to have come in contact with the man being treated for the first known US case of Ebola, the anxious parents of their schoolmates began arriving Wednesday to pick up their own children from school.

The children in question are being kept home from school, and the Dallas schools authority was taking steps Wednesday to allay the fear percolating in the city.

The children are not exhibiting any symptoms of the disease, the Dallas Independent School District superintendent said at a press conference, and the district is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"The safety of our kids is paramount," Superintendent Mike Miles said Wednesday. 

The children – who were said to be from within the victim's immediate family – are being kept home for the duration of the Ebola 21-day incubation period, but are not being quarantined, officials said. 

Mr. Miles said that, because the children did not show any symptoms, "the odds of them passing on any sort of virus is very low."

But school authority's Facebook page illustrates the level of fear among parents and other residents of the city.

"This is crazy scary," wrote Rachel Gonzalez. 

The CDC has stressed that an outbreak of Ebola in the US is unlikely. The Ebola virus is not airborne and is believed to be passed through bodily fluids. 

“We’re stopping it in its tracks in this country,” Dr. Frieden said at a press conference announcing the case Tuesday evening. “We can do that because of two things: strong health care … and strong public health that can track contacts and isolate them.” 

The patient, whose name has not been released and is currently being treated at a Dallas hospital, was originally sent home from the hospital on Sept. 26 and is believed to have come in contact with the children over the weekend.

In Dallas, the DISD also has put into action a number of emergency measures at four schools the children attend, in addition to a fifth that is nearby but is not known to have any children enrolled who had contact with the patient.

At all five schools, extra nurses have been deployed to keep a watch on any child who may be exhibiting tell-tale symptoms of Ebola, the authority said in its advisory.

As another precautionary measure, additional resources are being put in place to "thoroughly clean and disinfect" each of the five buildings every night. And a dedicated hotline with recorded updates on the situation has been set up, DISD said.

"Since the students are not presenting any symptoms, there is nothing to suggest that the disease was spread to others, including students and staff,” a statement from the DISD reads.

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