- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - A St. Paul public school staffer said she plans to travel to Sierra Leone to help her father, who is stricken with Ebola, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Mariama Kpaka-Sengita, 31, of St. Paul, has been granted a leave of absence from the school district to care for her father - but with conditions, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (https://bit.ly/1x5V7nB ) reported. She has to contact her doctor as soon as she returns to the U.S., and she won’t be allowed to go back to work or be at any school or district site after she returns for 21 days, the incubation period for the virus.

Kpaka-Sengita, who is a U.S. citizen, said she doesn’t plan to provide direct care to her 67-year-old father. Instead, she hopes to go to the U.S. embassy in Sierra Leone to see if officials there can get her father treated at a hospital in Freetown, the country’s capitol.

Both the U.S. State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised against nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, one of the countries in West Africa wracked by an Ebola outbreak.

Wynfred Russell, spokesman for the Minnesota African Task Force Against Ebola, told The Associated Press he has not heard of any other individuals in Minnesota who are deciding to return to their homeland to care for the sick.

“That’s dangerous. We are not encouraging that at all,” Russell said. He said even those with health training, like doctors and nurses, are being discouraged from going to West Africa unless they are specially trained by the CDC in dealing with Ebola response.

Kpaka-Sengita said she’s aware of the risks of contracting the disease or the possibility of being stranded in Sierra Leone by travel restrictions.

“It’s constantly in my head,” she told the newspaper. “I didn’t make decision lightly to go.”

Kpaka-Sengita said she plans to leave for Sierra Leone on Oct. 26 and to return to the Twin Cities on Nov. 15.

Laurin Cathey, executive director of human resources for the school district, said in fashioning the requirements, the district has tried to balance Kpaka-Sengita’s desire to help her father with the safety of students.

“What we’re saying is the public health and safety of our students is the paramount concern,” he said.

Kpaka-Sengita said in her job as a positive behavior coach with the school district, she mainly works with district staff members, but she does have some student contact.

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, https://www.twincities.com

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