On Tuesday, Rwanda announced all visitors from United States and Spain will be screened for Ebola. The new system was implemented just a few days after a New Jersey school banned two students from Ebola-free Rwanda.
“On October 19, the Rwandan Ministry of Health introduced new Ebola Virus Disease screening requirements,” said the US Embassy in Rwanda in a statement. “Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition–regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola–by telephone by dialing 114 between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for the duration of their visit to Rwanda (if less than 21 days), or for the first 21 days of their visit to Rwanda.”
The Embassy continued: “The Government of Rwanda screens each visitor entering Rwanda for symptoms of Ebola at its land borders and at the Kigali International Airport. The screening includes taking each visitor’s body temperature via a laser thermometer. Each visitor must also complete a detailed questionnaire concerning whether they have any symptoms of illness and where they have traveled in the past 22 days.”
There are no cases of Ebola in Rwanda. The country is 2,600 miles east of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea where the Ebola outbreak is the worst. Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan died of Ebola in Dallas, TX and two nurses tested positive for the disease after they treated him. Two missionaries in Spain died after they visited West Africa. A nurse recently tested positive.
Two students at Howard Yocum Elementary School recently moved from Rwanda. The school nurse sent a letter to teachers about the new students. She said Rwanda is not an affected area, but would monitor the children. The letter leaked and parents went into panic mode. The parents of the children decided to keep the students home for 21 days. From Mediate:
“I don’t feel comfortable sending my daughter to school with people who could be infected with Ebola.”
“Really concerns me. I don’t want to keep my boy out of school.”
“Tell us when we come into the door. Don’t smile in my face and have a secret like that.”
“Anybody from that area should just stay there until all this stuff is resolved. There’s nobody affected here; let’s just keep it that way.”
“I think for another couple weeks. I don’t think it would hurt, I mean you have a lot of children that are involved, so I don’t think it would hurt.”
The school recanted their original decisions and apologized. The two children will be allowed to attend class next week. Superintendent Beth Norcia released a letter on the school website:
As you know, the Maple Shade School District has been the object of extensive media coverage and community dialogue over the past several days. Our schools have become the unwitting “face” of our nation’s fears with regard to pressing health concerns.
If we step back as a community, it is clear that we are of one mind. We all care about our children. New parents were anxious to enroll their children in our public school system. A staff member was anxious to allay any possible fears even before they arose. Community members raised questions about potential health risks to all of our children.
We will, however, consider the unintended consequences of our messages more carefully in the future. No matter how well intentioned, a message that originated within our schools created conflict and concern within the Maple Shade community. We offer our sincere apologies.