Vigilant Minnesotans on high alert as Ebola fears spread


As the nation gets to grips with containing the spread of the Ebola virus in Texas, Minnesota officials remain on high alert for any sign of it entering the state.

Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) Director Tim Frieden was grilled at a congressional hearing in Washington Thursday about the CDC's response to the virus. Two nurses in Dallas, Texas, were the first to contract the virus on U.S. soil. They had cared for Thomas Duncan, who died from the virus last week.

The spread of the virus has sparked concern nationwide. Here's a look at the latest in Minnesota:

Authorities don hazmat suits in Rochester over woman's Ebola fears

First responders in Rochester were taking no chances when a woman who had recently been to Texas came down with flu-like symptoms yesterday, the Post Bulletin reports.

The woman called for an ambulance after falling ill and mentioned on the phone she had recently returned from Texas, where America's first three confirmed Ebola cases were reported.

First responders met her on the West River Parkway bike path, near Elton Hills Drive, wearing hazardous material suits as an extra precaution.

According to ABC 6 news, the 36-year-old woman returned to Minnesota on Sept. 19 and this week began running a fever.

Kevin Torgerson, Olmsted County Emergency Management director, told the Post Bulletin that upon speaking to the woman, it became clear that she was not at risk for Ebola.

He said, "The person has just got some kind of local flu or virus. There is no way that it can be connected to anything related to Ebola."

CDC 'had Ebola concerns' over passenger landing at MSP

CDC officials quizzed a man who landed in Minneapolis on a flight from New York last week as they were concerned he may have been carrying the Ebola virus.

FOX 9 reports that the man had recently arrived in New York from West Africa and was traveling on a Sun Country flight via Minneapolis to Seattle when he was stopped by CDC staff.

He was spoken to at the gate in Terminal 2, but was allowed to continue his travel to Seattle.

Associated Press reported Thursday that Gov. Mark Dayton has been in contact with federal officials about his request to add Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to the list of airports that have enhanced screenings for Ebola.

Currently only Dulles International in Washington, JFK in New York, O'Hare International in Chicago, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and Liberty International in Newark have screening procedures in place.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, Frieden faced calls from Republicans to restrict travel to the U.S. from the West African nations worst hit by the disease, CNN reports. Frieden said the airport screenings the CDC had put in place were proving effective, but added he was "open to ideas" to improve their response to the outbreak.

U of M forced to deny airborne Ebola reports

Officials at the University of Minnesota have rejected articles and tweets that said its infectious disease department had claimed the Ebola virus has become airborne, the Star Tribune reports.

Fears began to spread on social media Wednesday after a Twitter user,

" target="_blank">@UnivMinnNews, who isn't associated with the university, posted a link to an article on alternative news site Inquisitr that cited a report by the U of M's Center for Infectious Disease Control and Policy (CIDRAP).

The article claimed that CIDRAP had determined the virus is now airborne, meaning it can be transmitted by droplets in the air like the flu virus. Currently, Ebola can only be transmitted by contact with an infected person's blood or bodily fluids.

But Caroline Marin, spokeswoman for the U of M, told the Star Tribune that the report from CIDRAP doesn't make that claim. It instead says people should understand the potential for it to become airborne.

Just 10 days ago, CIDRAP posted an article on its own website re-iterating World Health Organisation guidance that any mutation of the virus into an airborne pathogen is for now "baseless speculation."

Nurses seek assurances state's hospitals can handle Ebola

Union members representing thousands of Minnesota's nurses have asked for better training and gear so they are prepared to tackle any outbreak of Ebola, WCCO reports.

In an informal survey by the Minnesota Nurses Association Tuesday, just two out of 150 nurses said they were confident they could safely treat Ebola patients, and called on hospitals to provide the highest quality protective equipment, including hazmat suits, according to the association's website.

Katheren Koehn, of the Minnesota Organization of Registered Nurses, told WCCO Wednesday that many of the strategies at U.S. hospitals may be out of date.

The state's hospitals are scrambling to review their procedures in the wake of the spread in Texas, which has seen two nurses come down with the virus after treating America's first confirmed Ebola victim.

MPR News reports that Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has ordered full-body hazmat suits, while Ebola experts at hospitals across the state have been training staff this week.

Dr. Peter Bornstein, a medical epidemiologist at HealthEast, told MPR that both nurses and doctors are "very concerned" about a potential outbreak, and said preparing for the possibility is "very stressful."

You can find out more about the Ebola virus through our What You Need To Know guide.

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