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Ebola Statement

Ebola Statement

October 22, 2014 update

Senegal declared Ebola-free.

In a statement published in Geneva on Friday, October 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the end of the Ebola outbreak in Senegal and congratulated the health and civil authorities of Dakar for their effective management of the single confirmed case.

According to the WHO, if there is no further transmission of the virus after a period of 42 days after the last recorded case, the agency deems that the outbreak has ended. "Senegal’s response is a good example of what one can do when one is faced with an imported case of Ebola," the communiqué said. More than 70 contacts of the patient were identified and monitored during this period, and there was no further transmission of the disease. At the same time, the country launched a widespread information campaign on the disease.

The WHO warned that the country remains vulnerable to the occurrence of new cases from other countries in the region affected by the epidemic. To mitigate this possibility, Senegal’s land, air, and sea borders are closed to everyone coming from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. There are no direct flights from Dakar to the capitals of these countries or vice versa. Anyone coming from one of these countries to Senegal via a third country (for example from Conakry to Dakar via Casablanca) will be refused entry for 40 days following their date of departure from one of these countries. In addition to the announcement regarding Senegal, Nigeria was similarly declared Ebola-free on Monday, October 20.

Read the official Senegal announcement on the WHO website.

SIT continues to monitor these events closely and is maintaining the educational and preventative approaches outlined below for all programs in West Africa. 

September 26, 2014 Update

SIT Study Abroad continues to closely monitor the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa. On September 10, Senegal’s Ministry of Health announced that the one confirmed imported case of EVD (brought to Senegal by a young man from Guinea) had fully recovered. The 70 close contacts of this individual were kept under surveillance throughout the 21-day incubation period. This 3-week period ended Friday, September 19, with no new infections. While a few unrelated individuals with fever and other symptoms of EVD have been tested in Senegal, these tests have been negative.

SIT has proceeded with all semester programs in West Africa, as well as the Senegal portion of the IHP Cities in the 21st Century program, which will begin on October 15. SIT Study Abroad’s dean for Africa, Dr. Tina Mangieri, recently returned from a site visit with the Senegal semester program in Dakar, during which time she met with students, staff, program partners, and officials. Dean Mangieri reviewed the current safety precautions that are in place, participated in daily program activities with students, and had the opportunity to speak with homestay families and community leaders.

SIT continues to monitor EVD developments throughout West Africa, and elsewhere. We remain prepared to activate contingency plans, as necessary, which may include modifying excursion itineraries, offering alternative program locations, and relocating programs outside their current country locations. In the event of relocation outside of a program country, we would activate our international assistance insurance, which would advise us on the best mode of transportation (land, air, sea) as well as any travel restrictions. For the current fall and upcoming spring semesters, SIT is modifying our original program itinerary for the Senegal: National Identity and the Arts program to include extended educational excursions in Saint-Louis and Thies, rather than Kedougou.

While there is no specific trigger that will initiate an itinerary change or alternate program location, our program staff on SIT’s Vermont campus maintain close communication with all program sites and continue to receive daily updates to inform future decisions. SIT is in frequent contact with the US Department of State, health officials, and US Embassy personnel in Dakar, Accra, and Yaounde. If and when we determine that we would be unable to continue to provide students and staff with a program that supports their needs, SIT will take immediate steps to provide students with alternatives.

SPRING 2015

SIT currently plans to offer all West Africa study abroad programs in spring 2015 at our sites in Senegal, Ghana, and Cameroon and we are actively enrolling students for these programs. The steps outlined above and in previous statements (below) will apply to spring 2015 programs in the region, including EVD-specific health orientations for students and all homestay families and a ban on Independent Study Projects in clinical or other healthcare settings. If the situation requires a program closure prior to, or through, the first five days of the spring semester, students will be offered placement on select alternate sites in the region. If conditions necessitate a program closure after the first week of the spring semester, the group will be moved together to an alternate site outside the affected country.      

With over 30 years of providing programs throughout Africa, the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff will always be SIT Study Abroad’s highest priority. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on this website and also via email to our students and parents and sending schools. For additional information about EVD, please review the WHO fact sheet and the CDC website or contact our staff in the Office of Student Affairs by calling 802 258-3212 or via e-mail at studentaffairs@sit.edu.

September 2, 2014

SIT Study Abroad is closely monitoring the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD), including the first reported case of Ebola in Senegal announced on Friday, August 29th.   Although there are currently no warning messages or alerts based on this single confirmed case, we understand the concern that this news has generated and wish to share the following information.

SIT has proceeded with the Senegal: National Identity and the Arts program, which began on August 31st, as well as the Senegal portion of the IHP Cities in the 21st Century program scheduled to arrive in Dakar in October. SIT is closely monitoring EVD developments in Senegal, and elsewhere, and remains prepared to activate contingency plans, if necessary, which may include modifying our excursion plans, offering alternative program locations to students, as well as relocating the program outside Senegal.

While there is no specific trigger that will initiate one or more of the options above, SIT remains in close contact with the US Department of State, the US Embassy in Dakar, and health officials in Senegal and has a team in Vermont receiving updates and maintaining close communication.  If and when we determine that we would be unable to continue to provide students and staff with a program that supports their needs, SIT will take immediate steps to provide students with alternatives. All SIT programs include evacuation insurance for situations where the health and safety of our students is at imminent risk (e.g., political situations, natural disasters, or epidemics).

While contraction of EVD is very serious, the virus is fragile, transmittable only through close, intimate contact with the bodily fluids of acutely ill patients. Healthcare workers and caregivers have the highest risk for contracting EVD. Scheduled SIT program events will not put students in these higher risk situations.

SIT will continue to implement additional training and procedures related to EVD in our continued prioritization of student health and safety:

  • In-country health orientations in Senegal will include special briefings on EVD. Students will be advised on EVD-specific universal precautions. In addition, these information sessions have been, and will continue to be, offered to all local staff.
  • Homestay families will receive additional background on EVD. A briefing by SIT Study Abroad program physicians will be included in the homestay family orientation provided in each community.
  • Independent study projects involving work in clinical or other healthcare settings will not be permitted until further notice.

The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff is SIT Study Abroad’s highest priority.  SIT has operated throughout Africa for over 30 years and brings this extensive experience to bear on risk management decisions for all programs. In all cases, SIT is prepared to make appropriate changes, including program closure, and has extensive contingency plans in place through local, regional, and global networks.

For additional information about EVD, please review the WHO fact sheet and the CDC website. Please do not hesitate to contact our office should you have any questions. The Office of Student Affairs can be reached by calling 802 258-3212 or via e-mail at studentaffairs@sit.edu.

August 1, 2014

SIT Study Abroad is closely monitoring the current outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD), first identified in Guinea in March 2014 and now present in Liberia and Sierra Leone. The border area shared by the three affected countries remains the epicenter of the EVD outbreak and, in the past week, each of the countries involved has increased measures to halt the further spread of EVD through border closures, quarantines, and restrictions on movement and public gatherings. Please note that EVD is not reported in any countries in which SIT Study Abroad operates.

While contraction of EVD is very serious, the virus is transmittable only through close, intimate contact with the bodily fluids of acutely ill patients. Healthcare workers and caregivers have the highest risk for contracting EVD. Scheduled SIT program events will not put students in these higher risk situations.

At present, SIT plans to maintain all programs in Africa, and elsewhere, during the fall 2014 semester, and will continue to observe standard health, safety, and security protocols at each site.

Although EVD is not reported in the countries in which SIT operates, we are implementing additional training and procedures in our continued prioritization of student health and safety.

  • In-country health orientations for programs in West Africa provided to all SIT students by in-country physicians will now include special briefings on EVD. Students will be advised on EVD-specific universal precautions. In addition, these information sessions have been, and will continue to be, offered to all local staff.
  • Homestay families in West Africa will receive additional background on EVD. A briefing by SIT Study Abroad program physicians will be included in the homestay family orientation provided in each community.
  • Independent study projects involving work in clinical or other healthcare settings will not be permitted on West Africa programs until further notice.

The health and safety of students, faculty, and staff is SIT Study Abroad’s highest priority. SIT has operated throughout Africa for over 30 years and brings this extensive experience to bear on risk management decisions for all programs. With respect to health, our focus has been, and will continue to be, on providing preparations and precautions for tropical infectious diseases students may encounter through pre-departure and on-site information. In all cases, SIT is poised to make appropriate changes, including program closure, and has extensive contingency plans in place through local, regional, and global networks.

We extend our profound sympathies to those affected. While we understand the concern, we are well prepared at this point to maintain our current operations despite the present EVD outbreak. The specific conditions required for transmission, the relatively few cases reported (as a percentage of the population), the lack of suspected/confirmed cases of EVD in the countries where SIT Study Abroad operates, and the contingency plans in place at each site, enable SIT to continue to offer all programs with the highest regard for the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff. SIT will continue to monitor events closely in coordination with local medical officials and US embassy staff, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, and we will make appropriate decisions to safeguard the well-being of our students.

SIT Study Abroad is committed to its mission of helping students understand the issues and realities of countries and cultures different from their own, while prioritizing health, safety, and security. For additional information about EVD, please review the WHO fact sheet and the CDC website. Please do not hesitate to contact our office should you have any questions. The Office of Student Affairs can be reached by calling 802 258-3212 or via e-mail at studentaffairs@sit.edu.

 

SIT, 1 Kipling Road, PO Box 676, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0676
802 258-3212, 888 272-7881 (Toll-free in the US), Fax: 802 258-3296 

SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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