- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota health and safety officials said Thursday there are not any suspected cases of Ebola in the state, nor are they aware of anyone who has been in direct physical contact with someone who is infected, and they’re taking precautions to keep it that way.

More than a dozen top state government leaders met with airport managers to revisit plans for dealing with infectious diseases amid heightened public worry that an Ebola outbreak in West Africa won’t be adequately contained. Gov. Mark Dayton, who convened the meeting, said people can be confident that the chance of an Ebola diagnosis in Minnesota remains low.

“Minnesotans should be assured that everything that is humanly possible is being done,” Dayton said. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll avoid any of the incidents that occurred elsewhere and if something should occur we’ll respond to it very capably.”

State Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said hospitals have been reminded of emergency plans, refined during other major health scares, for dealing with infectious diseases. Those plans are periodically practiced.

“The best thing Minnesotans can do in response to this worldwide concern is really to get information,” Ehlinger said. “Pay attention to credible sources for information so they can understand what the risk is and what it is they should not be concerned with.”

Ebola has killed more than 3,800 people in Africa and infected at least twice that many, according to the World Health Organization. The disease can be spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an already sick person.

The state prevention planning has included stepped-up outreach to Minnesota’s vast population of Liberian immigrants, some of whom have had stricken relatives. Pollution-control officials are involved in case contaminated materials need to be disposed of.

Metropolitan Airports Commission director Jeff Hamiel said there is an isolation area at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in the remote instance someone infected does arrive. No carriers have direct flights from the hardest-hit African nations to Minnesota.

The airport is not one of the five where inbound international travelers are being subjected to health screenings, but Dayton said he plans to approach federal leaders about possibly adding the precaution.

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