Visit by Ebola victim shocks northeast Ohio

This undated file image made available by the CDC shows the Ebola Virus.

Katherine Schaeffer

A nurse who cared for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas Hospital was diagnosed with the virus after visiting relatives in Tallmadge over the weekend, three of whom are Kent State staff members.  

The nurse, Kent State graduate Amber Joy Vinson, is one of three individuals to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. Thomas Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control, said Vinson arrived in stable condition at an Atlanta hospital by special aircraft Wednesday night, according to CNN.

The three KSU staff members, who the university did not identify, came to work on Kent State’s main campus Monday and Tuesday before learning of Vinson’s illness, university spokesman Eric Mansfield said at a press conference Wednesday. 

The university could not provide specific information about the employees’ positions on campus. 

The three staff members have been asked to stay off campus as they self-monitor their symptoms from their Tallmadge residences for the next 21 days, Mansfield said. 

Angela DeJulius, chief university physician at Kent State, said the university has no specific plans to sanitize or cleanse the Kent State employees’ work spaces. 

“The Kent State employees who were exposed to the patient may be considered to be at some risk, despite the fact that she wasn’t showing symptoms,” DeJulius said. “Contacts of those employees are not considered to be at risk.”

Ebola is not considered contagious until an individual exhibits symptoms, and Vinson claimed not to have shown symptoms until Tuesday evening, putting her relatives and the Kent State community members they came into contact with at a low risk for infection, DeJulius said.

Kent State conference on Ebola from on Vimeo.

The university has consulted local health authorities and the CDC, and is relying on their guidance, Mansfield said.

“We’re going above and beyond the CDC’s recommendations in asking those three employees to stay home and away from campus per the CDC’s 21-day period of self-monitoring,” DeJulius said. “I feel that those precautions put us in a situation where there’s very, very low risk to anyone on our campus.”

Although reports that Vinson had spent time on Kent State’s campus began to circulate through news and social media sites Wednesday afternoon, Vinson’s relatives confirmed that she did not set foot on the Kent State campus during her stay. 

Vinson’s mother and stepfather attended the KSU football game on Saturday, but Vinson stayed home, said Jeff Neistadt, Kent Health Department Commissioner, at a Kent City Council Meeting Wednesday night.

What is Ebola? 

Vinson’s case is one of only three confirmed Ebola cases in the U.S., but the disease has reached epidemic levels in West Africa, according to the CDC’s website ( Nearly 9,000 cases have been reported, and nearly 4,500 individuals have died in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea alone.  

In an article published in The New York Times, Frieden said the odds of contracting Ebola in the U.S. are low. The disease is not transmittable unless symptoms are present, and those exhibiting symptoms will likely feel sick enough to stay home. 

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with infected individuals’ body fluids, he said. Airborne viruses like measles and chickenpox are more common in the U.S.

The Ebola virus can survive in fluids for a number of hours but cannot survive on dry surfaces, DeJulius said.

Ebola symptoms include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting and can occur anywhere between two to 21 days after infection, according to the CDC. 

Portage County takes action

by Matthew Merchant

The Crisis Action System, a state emergency monitoring system, has been updated to level 1, which means Portage County is aware of Ebola situation and is monitoring it, said Ryan Shackelford, Portage County Emergency Management Director.

The county’s emergency management department has sent out information packets about Ebola to EMS and fire departments in the county. The departments have been notified to ask patients questions related to Ebola symptoms.

Moving forward 

Vinson flew from Cleveland on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 and arrived in Dallas on Monday evening. She was diagnosed with Ebola on Tuesday night.

The Associated Press reported that Vinson spoke with a CDC official before boarding her flight Monday. Noting Vinson had a normal temperature and no other symptoms, the official, a contact tracer monitoring Vinson, cleared her to fly.


After finding out about her illness Wednesday morning, Vinson’s relatives alerted the university administration and left campus, Mansfield said.

Kent State President Beverly Warren held meetings Wednesday with staff, her cabinet members and the President’s Advisory Council, which includes all major administrators from department chairs to deans to vice presidents, Warren said. 

Kent State conference on Ebola from on Vimeo.

The university sent a FlashLine message to students and staff at 3 p.m. Wednesday, alerting them and urging them not to panic.

The news will not affect this weekend’s Homecoming celebration, and the university will remain open, conducting business and classes as usual, Mansfield said. 

Moving forward, Kent State will keep in contact with the health department and the CDC, and follow their advice, Warren said. University administration plans to be as transparent as possible as they learn and process new information.

“We do not see that the harm is imminent or that the risk is at a major level to alarm anyone, and that is the advice we are receiving at the moment, and we will continue to monitor advice as we receive it,” she said. 

CDC Director Frieden said Vinson had violated CDC guidelines against anyone using public transport while undergoing self-monitoring for exposure to Ebola. 

He said Vinson did not report that her temperature had risen a small amount, to 99.5 degrees, before she departed for Dallas. Her risk to other passengers was “very low.”

“We will, from this moment forward, ensure that no other individual who is being monitored for exposure undergoes travel in any way other than controlled movement,” Frieden said.


A poll on people’s fear of catching Ebola.

Campus and city medical professionals are working together to keep students, faculty and staff safe, Warren said. 

“We are doing everything in our power to ensure safety,” she said. “That will be our first concern. We will try to provide information and clarity as we have it.” 

DeJulius said she recommends that anyone who has a high fever or any possible symptoms of Ebola come to DeWeese Health Center for evaluation.

Parents and community members can check Kent State’s homepage and call (330) 346-INFO for updates and more information. 

Contact Katherine Schaeffer at [email protected]. Jacqueline DeMate contributed to reporting.