Ebola scares in Maine

This past Friday, an elementary school teacher in Strong, Maine was placed on a 21-day paid leave of absence due to concerns that she might have been exposed to the Ebola virus. Worries began after the teacher attended a trip to Dallas for an educational conference. Since Dallas is where Ebola surfaced in the U.S., parents of Strong students immediately raised concerns.

Although the teacher has not displayed any symptoms of the virus, the school is taking proper precautions. “At this time, we have no information to suggest that this staff member has been in contact with anyone who has been exposed to Ebola,” explained the School Administrative District’s statement released on its website. “However, the district and the staff member understand the parents’ concerns. Therefore, after several discussions with the staff member, out of an abundance of caution, this staff member has been placed on a paid leave of absence for up to 21 days.”

Strong is not the only area in Maine to have experienced an Ebola scare. Earlier this week, the Maine Medical Center in Portland received a patient who complained about a fever after traveling to a region with active Ebola cases. The patient was then isolated and repeatedly tested for the virus under observation. However, after being held over a period of two days the patient tested negative for Ebola multiple times and was released.

Despite these two scares, there have been no diagnosed cases of Ebola in Maine. Nevertheless, the LePage administration is working hard to ensure that all Maine medical providers are prepared for any possible situation, and in doing so will follow the proper guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “Maine hospitals and medical providers, including doctors and nurses, are trained, prepared and equipped,” explained Maine CDC Director Dr. Sheila Pinette to WCSH6 News. The recent Portland Ebola scare truly exhibited Maine’s capabilities in handling the virus, as they followed World Health Organization protocols, which are the strictest policies in the medical field.

Yet even with Maine’s preparations, the harsh reality of Ebola’s deadly effects as well as the distance it has traveled still have people on edge. Statistics show that the death rate of the virus is frighteningly high, swiftly killing more than half of those who contract it. With the continuous reports of Ebola’s rampage in West Africa and the recent presence of the virus in the States, these two Ebola scares do not sit well with many Mainers. “I’m really tired of people telling everyone, on the news, starting at the national level, ‘zero risk, love risk,’” Matt Dexter, a father of a child in the Strong teacher’s classroom, explained to the Portland Press Herald. “The bottom line is that there is a risk. Are we more capable of handling this than Africa? Sure, but why walk around blind and jam people into hot spots we can’t control? It all comes down to personal responsibility.”

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