DALLAS, Texas — With the death of Ebola patient zero Thomas Duncan, the affected Dallas Independent School District (ISD) in North Texas responded to the tragic end of the first Ebola case on American soil while Midland ISD in West Texas put a plan in place to minimize their Ebola risk.
On October 8, Dallas ISD officials responded to Duncan’s death. The district has been ground zero in this crisis because of five students who may have come into direct contact with Duncan prior to his hospitalization.
“Today our thoughts are with our students who knew Mr. Duncan,” the district posted on its daily health update online, adding that across North Texas everyone’s thoughts are with those five students “who possibly had contact” with Duncan. They still have not shown any signs or symptoms of the virus and are not contagious, although they remain on the district’s Homebound program during the 3 week observation period, according to Dallas ISD.
Breitbart Texas reported that on October 6-7, Ebola fever scanners were placed in five Dallas ISD campuses to monitor student temperatures as another measure of defense against virus detection. Prior to Homebound instruction, those students with suspected exposure to Duncan attended these school for two days.
The district also included condolences to his families and loved ones.
Breitbart Texas touched base with Dallas ISD News and Information Director Andre Riley to get an idea of how the district was handling the aftermath of Duncan’s death and if they were bracing for any potential panic.
Riley told Breitbart Texas that the district didn’t necessarily break the news about patient zero succumbing to the deadly virus but was “sharing our condolences regarding the passing of Mr. Duncan and emphasizing our work moving forward.”
He said, “Today, we shared our condolences regarding Mr. Duncan’s passing via a letter to students/families at the impacted schools, through our news and main websites, a notice to staff, through our community newsletter, and through a news release.”
Dallas ISD has provided a wealth of information for families on their website. Even so, when Breitbart Texas spoke with parents and students at Lowe Elementary, Tasby Middle School, and Conrad High, three of the five schools on Ebola watch, a lot of fear was found.
However, Riley told Breitbart Texas that, “We’ve not experienced panic, largely because we’ve communicated proactively with our students, staff, families and community on this issue from day one. We’ve used our websites, social media, letters to families, phone messages, a hotline, a notification app and the media to share our message. This messaging has occurred in the different languages relative to our community.”
Still, Breitbart Texas reported that in speaking with families on these campuses the language barrier did interfere with the district’s best intentions to allay those fears. Children in the primary grades don’t always understand the full implications of what it means to contract Ebola while their non-English speaking parents rely on these very youngsters to translate the information to them.
The other two campuses being monitored are elementary schools Rogers and Hotchkiss.
Breitbart Texas asked Riley if he anticipated more absences with Duncan’s death. He said, “We have absences every day, regardless of external influences. We’ll continue to communicate with our families regarding this issue.”
In the nearby Highland Park School District, though, two parents pulled their children out of school in response to the actions of Dallas County Commissioners Court Judge Clay Jenkins, according to the Washington Post.
Breitbart Texas previously reported that a complaint was filed against Jenkins with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services by a parent who was gravely concerned with how Jenkins entered the contaminated apartmenton late Thursday evening October 2. He wore no protective gear and then drove the Ebola victim’s family to an undisclosed temporary housing site where they will wait out their 21-day Ebola quarantine as a result of direct exposure with the infectious Duncan.
According to the Washington Post, neighborhood parents saw Jenkins on the local TV news entering the victim’s apartment in his street clothes. The next day, they watched the professional cleanup crew scrub the apartment in hazmat suits. Parents were alarmed mainly because the judge put their children at risk. They attend school with Jenkins’ daughter.
The Washington Post reported that one of the two children has since returned to school.
Meanwhile in West Texas, Midland residents were on edge following an Ebola scare on Tuesday evening, October 7. According to CBS 7, a passenger with Ebola-like symptoms deplaned at Midland International Airport and was admitted to Midland Memorial Hospital. It turned out to be a false alarm.
Still, Midland ISD is being proactive by questioning incoming students about travel history and Ebola virus. They are primarily interested in families who have traveled to West Africa. Tracey Dees, RN, BSN., told CBS 7 that the area “has a lot of transient people,” emphasizing they admit students from all over theworld. “We want to be proactive and make sure if people are enrolling in our schools they are healthy.”
They plan to ask families where they have travelled and if they have come in contact with anyone who has been ill or if they have been a care provider for a sick person, according to CBS 7.
Dees is taking the overall Ebola threat seriously. She told CBS 7 that whether it’s Ebola or a more common virus, the best prevention starts with talking to your child. She suggested many of the same simple prevention measures Dallas ISD has shared with its families — thorough hand washing and not coming into contact with other people’s bodily fluids, including runny or bloody noses.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that Ebola is not airborne, nor is it transmitted through water or food. The virus spreads by direct contact with blood, bodily fluids or contaminated objects like needles and syringes, and even through infected animals.
According to CBS 7, neighboring Ector County ISD campuses are expected to implement similar procedures as in Midland ISD.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.