International students react to Ebola scare

Extensive news coverage about Ebola has not caused much concern among international students at Tech. However, that doesn’t mean they are unaware of its existence.

“I was afraid that I might not be able to leave back to Nigeria during the fall break,” Assumpta Esiaka from Lagos, Nigeria, a graduate student in emergency management and homeland security, said. “But since knowing that WHO has certified Nigeria Ebola free, I no longer have any fear of traveling.”

She said she is not worried about catching Ebola in the U.S. because she is well informed about protecting herself.

“As a matter of fact, I am more worried about [my family] than they are about me,” Esiaka said.

On Oct. 20 World Health Organization (WHO) declared Nigeria Ebola free.

Freshman Fayez Alharbi, a nursing major from Hail, Saudi Arabia, doesn’t have any plans involving leaving the U.S. in the immediate future. He wants to finish school before returning to Saudi Arabia. If Ebola reaches Russellville, he said he may reconsider his options.

Alharbi’s parents have expressed some concern.

“My mother and my father asked me if the disease was near to me,” he said.

Even though the closest reported case of Ebola is in Texas, the Office of International and Multicultural Student Services (IMSSO) has taken precautions. The office received an email in August from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) asking IMSSO to provide a list of students arriving from or have traveled in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone or Nigeria. On Oct. 8, Senegal was added to the list.

There are currently nine Nigerian students enrolled at Tech.

“Luckily nobody has left the U.S. [over the summer],” Yasushi Onodera, director of IMSSO, said.

This fall, two new students from Nigeria arrived at Tech, and they were under a 21-day monitoring period before they were declared free from symptoms.

Tech cannot prevent anybody from going back to their home countries during breaks, but Onodera recommends students stay away from danger zones.

“I also don’t advise students to go to a zones where there is a civil war,” he said.

Also, the Tech’s Health and Wellness Center is prepared for worst-case scenarios. The nurses have personal protective equipment and a plan for action, said Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and Director of Health Services Rebecca Gray. Gray has also been on conference calls with the ADH and infectious disease physicians concerning monitoring students from high-risk areas. The ADH has not provided training on campus, but Gray has made a presentation to several departments on campus such as Student Services and Academic Advising.

For Uchenna Ezenwa, a graduate student in mechanical engineering from Abuja, Nigeria, Ebola scares her.

“You can’t tell if a person can be cured or not,” Ezenwa said.

However, she doesn’t fear it coming to the university.

“I trust you guys have the technology to contain it,” she said. “If Nigeria can contain [Ebola], the U.S will be able to contain it.”

Ebola is not a new disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the first reports of Ebola appeared in the 1970s.

Ezenwa said she hopes the U.S. as well as the rest of the world will learn from treating the disease that Ebola “should be a continuous knowledge” passed on from outbreak to outbreak.