- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Facing questions and worries about Ebola, the state’s top school board has approved emergency rules that give local superintendents sweeping new authority to close public schools and send students home if they sense a threat.

State health officials say nobody in Louisiana has been diagnosed with Ebola.

Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the panel took the action Wednesday as a precaution.

Let’s don’t wait until there is an event to be prepared,” Roemer said after the meeting.

“This is a first step,” he said. “I don’t think it is a final step.”

Under the new rules, a local superintendent can dismiss schools due to an emergency that now includes “any actual or imminent threat to public health or safety, which may result in loss of life, disease or injury.”

Assistant Superintendent Erin Bendily said the state Department of Health and Hospitals has already provided information on symptoms and other information about communicable diseases to local school districts and will continue to do so.

Bendily and other state leaders assured a House homeland security committee Thursday that the state has a response plan to protect residents if the state encounters a case of Ebola.

Kevin Davis, director of Louisiana’s emergency preparedness office, said a Louisiana-specific Ebola response plan was distributed to local government and state agencies. It includes a quick reference guide for first responders, with screening questions and information about how to limit exposure if someone is suspected of having the virus.

Davis said his office also is working on a video demonstration, describing how to put on and take off protective gear when treating an Ebola patient.

Health officials said they are working to identify hospital treatment locations.

“We do know several hospitals in Louisiana that could do this with the right guidance,” said State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry.

Guidry said officials are staying in touch with universities, airports and the Coast Guard to track when people may be coming from countries with Ebola outbreaks.

Eight people in the United States have been treated for Ebola, including two nurses who treated a Texas patient who died of the virus.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com


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