Ebola worries could keep some Dallas students home

Children are picked up from L.L. Hotchkiss, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Dallas, where children that were exposed to an Ebola infected family member attend classes. Authorities say five students who had contact with a man diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas are being monitored but are showing no symptoms of the disease. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

DALLAS (AP) — Some parents have temporarily removed their children from Dallas schools after learning that five students may have come into contact with the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

School administrators urged calm. None of the children have shown symptoms and are being monitored at home, where they will likely remain for three weeks, Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles said Wednesday.

But Marcie Pardo and other parents left L.L. Hotchkiss Elementary indicating that they were taking no chances and would keep their children home for the rest of the week.

“Kids pretty much touch everything. Not everyone washes their hands,” Pardo said. “It’s the contagious part that gets me worried.”

Ebola isn’t contagious until symptoms appear, and then it can spread only by close contact with a patient’s bodily fluids. Pardo said that knowledge makes her feel better, but that she still took her 8-year-old daughter, Soriah, home from school early, along with her cousin.

Tucked in a quiet neighborhood of tree-lined streets, Hotchkiss is one of four campuses in Dallas that Miles says the five students attended. He said the district is taking an “abundance of caution” and would add more health workers to keep watch for symptoms among students.

The district also planned to deploy more custodial workers to the campuses, which include another elementary school, two middle schools and a high school.

“The students didn’t have any symptoms, so the odds of them passing on any sort of virus is very low,” Miles said.

Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 7,100 people in West Africa, and more than 3,300 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. Symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus.

Health officials say the five children are among 12 to 18 people being monitored after exposure to the man, who was listed in serious but stable condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

It was not exactly clear how the Ebola patient knew the children, but his sister said he had been visiting with family including two nephews. Officials have not revealed the ages of the children who had contact with the man.

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Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber.

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