- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Travelers returning to Ohio from West African countries that have Ebola outbreaks are to be quarantined at home for three weeks if they’ve been exposed to anyone potentially infected with the virus, according to state guidance announced Friday that also calls for monitoring the health of returning travelers who weren’t exposed.

The new protocols go beyond recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are “informed by the latest medical considerations for risk and exposure,” the Ohio Department of Health said in a statement outlining the measures.

It said the number of people returning to Ohio from West Africa is generally low, averaging about two a day.

Those exposed to a potentially infected person face a 21-day quarantine in Ohio and are to have daily health checks by public health officials. Quarantined individuals who are determined to be low-risk might be allowed to take trips outside their homes away from public spaces, the state said.

Returning travelers who weren’t exposed to potentially infected people also will have health monitoring for 21 days, the incubation period for the virus. They’re instructed to avoid public places, track their movements outside their homes, stay in the U.S. and remain within their health districts unless they arrange for daily health monitoring at their travel destinations.

State health officials say they’re trying to keep all Ohioans safe while respecting travelers’ rights. They also say they don’t want to create barriers for medical relief volunteers.

“We didn’t want to unnecessarily restrict freedoms without evidence, but we also acknowledge that the science of how our health care workers became infected is not 100 percent set,” said Dr. Mary Applegate, the state’s medical director.

The department said it will work with local health officials to implement the protocols. Applegate characterized them as guidelines but noted that state and local health officials can get help from police if necessary to enforce quarantines if mutual agreement isn’t reached.

Ohio already was monitoring the health of more than 160 people who had contact or potential contact with Amber Vinson, the Dallas nurse who flew from Texas to northeast Ohio and back before she was diagnosed with the virus. Three people related to that case remained quarantined Friday, and none is showing symptoms.

Vinson had treated a Liberian man who died of Ebola. She was released from a hospital Tuesday after tests showed she’s virus-free.

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Find Kantele Franko on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/kantele10 .

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