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Health Dept. ready to monitor travelers for Ebola; officials practice virus response

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Minnesota health officials are prepared to be in daily contact with travelers who come to the state from the West African nations most affected by the Ebola outbreak starting as early as Monday.

Public health nurses or epidemiologists in Minnesota plan to contact travelers who may have been exposed to Ebola for 21 days – the incubation period for Ebola – after arriving in Minnesota to see if they have Ebola-like symptoms.

At the airport, travelers will also receive a CARE (check and report Ebola) kit, which contains information on Ebola symptoms, a tracking log and a thermometer, which will help them monitor their health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday as part of its post-arrival monitoring.

Minnesota officials also plan to gather information on if the person has any intention of traveling during the incubation period.

Starting Monday, travelers arriving in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Georgia from West African will undergo this monitoring, the CDC says. The CDC plans to extend these checks to all states next week.

Minnesota is ready to begin these checks as early as Monday if the health department gets approval from the CDC, the Star Tribune says,

About 10 people arrive in Minnesota each week from the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, so public health officials could be calling as many as 30 people each day, MPR News reports. Minnesota is home to one of the largest Liberian communities in the United States.

A strategy similar to these post-arrival checks was put in place in Nigeria and Senegal and it is being credited with helping the countries combat Ebola, the LA Times notes.

This outbreak of Ebola was first detected in Africa in March, and as of Oct. 22, 9,936 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola have been reported in five currently affected countries (Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Spain and the U.S.) and two previously affected countries (Nigeria and Senegal). There have been 4,877 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Mock Ebola response

More than 100 representatives from several state agencies walked through how they would respond if Ebola was diagnosed in Minnesota.

Thursday morning's tabletop exercise was designed to review the state's response plan, as well as bring agencies together to confirm their roles and responsibilities if Ebola makes its way to the state.

Community meeting scheduled

MDH is holding a community information session about Ebola on Saturday from 6-8 p.m. at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.

There will be a panel of health officials that will discuss the Ebola concern, including how MDH is preparing, an update on returning passengers and airport screenings, cultural concerns, and grief and mental health of those who have lost loved ones from Ebola. They will also answer questions from the audience.

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