Statement on Cornell's Ebola preparedness and restrictions on travel

The following message was sent to all students by Fredrik Logevall, vice provost for international affairs and chair of the International Travel Advisory and Response Team; Dr. Janet Corson-Rikert, associate vice president for campus health and executive director of Gannett Health Services; and Craig McAllister, director of risk management and insurance. A similar message also was sent to all faculty and staff.

We have all been following with concern the emergence of what has been called the "largest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history," its devastating impact on several countries in West Africa, and recent cases in the U.S. and Europe.

Cornell University medical, safety, and senior administrative staff and faculty have been engaged since mid-summer in implementing best practices to protect individual health and the safety of our community, including:

  • Preparation of Gannett health care providers, Environmental Health and Safety staff, and other Cornell first responders
  • Collaboration with public health officials, Cayuga Medical Center, local colleges and emergency planning/response networks
  • Targeted outreach to potentially affected individuals
  • Provision of up-to-date information and guidance

The university is now putting in place travel restrictions, given the evolving situation and our responsibility to protect the health of the community. These restrictions align with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel warnings against any nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. A travel alert recommending enhanced precautions has been issued for travelers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Travel Restrictions

  • Any exception to the restriction on student travel will require an application for an exemption per the guidelines in the University Travel policy. Students must fill out an ITART application 2 to 6 weeks before their intended travel.
  • Direct questions about the travel restriction or appeal process to Risk Management and Insurance: 607.254.1575.

Health Consultation and Screening

  • Students who are considering travel to any of the affected countries must consult with Gannett Health Services before making travel plans to review resources and personal safety information. Call 607.255.5155 to schedule an appointment.
  • Students who recently have traveled to any of the affected countries, or had contact with someone who has, or had known exposure to a person with Ebola, must contact Gannett Health Services by phone before returning to campus to establish plans for monitoring your health and protecting others. Call 607.255.5155.
  • Students who are considering hosting visitors from one of the affected countries must consult with staff at Gannett who will help you develop plans that will assure safety for you and others.

In spite of the ubiquitous news coverage and very serious nature of this disease, Ebola is rare outside of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—including most other countries in Africa. While public health officials warn that we can expect more cases in the U.S., they continue to be confident that (in contrast to the under-resourced countries in West Africa) the robust health care infrastructures in the U.S. will limit the spread. Remember: Ebola is not transmitted through the air (like colds or influenza) or by casual contact. Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious to office mates, classmates, roommates, and others. Transmission of the Ebola virus requires direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of a person infected with Ebola who is already experiencing symptoms. (Learn more about Ebola from the CDC.)

We will continue to provide updates about the evolving epidemic, countries under current CDC travel advisories, links to resources, and information for the Cornell community on the Gannett Health Services website [search: Ebola]. If you have any questions related to Ebola or any other health concern (for yourself or a fellow student), please call Gannett to talk with a health care provider.

Sincerely yours,

Fredrik Logevall, PhD
Vice Provost for International Affairs
Chair, International Travel Advisory and Response Team (ITART)

Janet Corson-Rikert, MD
Associate Vice President for Campus Health
Executive Director, Gannett Health Services

Craig McAllister
Director, Risk Management and Insurance