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Ebola update: Trying to calm fears of disease in Minnesota

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Public health officials in Minnesota are continuing their efforts to spread the word about their preparations for the Ebola virus and allay concerns that the deadly infection could become widespread in the state.

Officials from the state health department and several Twin Cities area hospitals hosted a public information meeting Saturday night in Brooklyn Park, which is home to a large number of immigrants from West Africa where Ebola is spreading rapidly.

Speakers reminded the attendees that Ebola cannot be spread through the air; it only passes to someone who has direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids, according to MPR News.

Even if someone in Minnesota would become infected, officials say they're confident they could manage the situation.

Despite those assurances, some attendees are still quite concerned, WCCO reports.

Jeremiah Sarnor of Brooklyn Center said seven family members of his, including his 18-year-old son, have died of Ebola in West Africa.

“This Ebola stuff is a major disaster in Africa, and I’m a victim of it,” he said, according to WCCO, adding that he's concerned the virus will make its way to Minnesota because of the state's large West African population.

That's one reason why leaders in the West African community are discouraging people from traveling to or from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone – the countries stricken by Ebola – for the time being.

"We can all do our part to ensure that our relatives, if they have to come, they abide by the 21-day active monitoring," said Clarence Yaskey with the Minnesota Africans against Ebola Task Force, according to MPR News. "And if they do not have to come, they can postpone the visit."

The Department of Health will begin monitoring travelers coming to Minnesota from Ebola-affected countries. The department last week named four hospitals in the state as Ebola treatment centers should any cases arise here.

Gov. Mark Dayton was scheduled to meet Sunday with the state health commissioner to review Minnesota's Ebola preparedness.

Metro area restaurant's business hurt by Ebola fears

Concerns over the Ebola virus are hurting a restaurant in Brooklyn Park, so much so that the owner is changing the sign on her establishment to remove the word "African."

The owner of Mama Ti's African Kitchen, Kellita Whisnant, says business has dropped off by 50 percent since the summer because customers worry they could contract the Ebola virus from eating her food, FOX 9 reports. So she is covering up the word "African" on the sign.

“This African name that brought people in before, is now hurting me," Whisnant told the station, adding that some people are too afraid even to shake her hand.

Doug Schultz with the Minnesota Department of Health says it's not possible for Ebola to spread through food.

"If the restaurant is serving food that has been secured in the United States, there's absolutely no possibility that that food could transmit Ebola. Not possible," he told KSTP.

Whisnant said she wants her customers to know that she buys her beef from Minnesota farmers. Despite the Ebola education forums, and health department information she is posting in her restaurant, many customers are staying away.

The restaurant is now considering the possibility of changing the entire menu from Liberian cuisine to American deli food just to survive, according to FOX 9.

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