Ferris forms Ebola "task force"

Committee assembled to address the potential Ebola threat

Lately, national news has focused heavily on the Ebola epidemic, and the few patients the U.S has seen. To ensure safety of students at Ferris State University, a committee of faculty and staff has been assembled to address the potential threat.

The longstanding Communicable Disease Committee has been addressing this issue, as it did with previous illnesses such as H1N1 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.

“This group meets periodically regardless of any health concerns,” said Dr. Jeanine Ward-Roof, Vice President for Student Affairs. “When a health concern exists, the committee meets more frequently to stay abreast of updates or concerns that could affect campus.”

According to Birkam Health Center and the FSU Communicable Disease Committee, “The Birkam Health Center monitors all infectious disease updates and alerts through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Michigan Health Alert Network (MIHAN). These systems are in place to help us become informed as soon as a potential health threat presents itself so we can then inform and educate the campus community.”

The staff at Birkam intends to potentially treat the disease, should it occur, by following “to the letter” the recommendations of the CDC. Every patient that makes an appointment is screened and then asked if they’re showing symptoms or have recently travelled. If so, the patient would then be isolated and transported to a hospital for further evaluation.

The doctors at Birkam are also learning how to properly put on and remove the necessary personal protection equipment, should they see any potential cases, to protect themselves and others during the evaluation and transport process. Arrangements have also been made with the community first responders in terms of transporting any possible patients to the hospital.

Dr. Susan Davis, physician at Birkam and Dr. Renee Vander Myde, Birkam’s director, both agreed that as of right now, the Ferris community shouldn’t be worried about the disease coming to campus. As of right now, only a handful of people in the United States have tested positive for the Ebola and are being keep either in quarantine or under close surveillance. Thus far only one American Ebola victim has died in the United States.

“This is to keep the campus safe,” said Dr. Davis. “If you want to call it precautions, that’s what it is, but we want to be safe here at the health center. We want to keep the health care providers, the students on campus, and the staff safe.”

“In terms of it being precautionary, the chances of anybody here being exposed to Ebola or coming with Ebola is very unlikely, but it’s important to always be prepared,” said Vander Myde.

Dr. Davis said that the best way to steer clear of the disease would be to make sure you’re not going anywhere affected. “I would certainly say to be concerned when traveling, and avoid the countries that this is coming from, and that is usually in Africa.”

However, with the seasons for illness upon us, the staff at Birkam is also concerned with a much more common issue.

“I think it’s a great time to be focusing on what probably presents a much larger risk to this campus, which is the flu.” Said Vander Myde.

Dr. Davis and Vander Myde advise to make sure to get a flu shot, standing at least three feet away from anyone who’s sick, and taking care of one’s health in general, such as hand washing, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep to stay healthy this season.

Ferris department of public safety chief Bruce Borkovich was also named to the committee as a law enforcement official.

Borkovich is in his second full year as the police chief at Ferris after serving on the BAYANET narcotics team in Mount Pleasant.