Ebola outbreak: University of South Florida blocks African journalists' visit

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US varsity blocks SA journalists' visit
Miami, Oct 22: The University of South Florida (USF) in the US has cancelled the academic visit of 14 African journalists fearing that they might be carriers of the Ebola virus, media reported.

Journalists from several African countries were invited by the US State Department for a five-day stay at the institution, the Tampa Tribune said Tuesday.

USF has sponsored since 2009 the Edward R. Murrow Programme for Journalists, a chance for foreigners to learn more about their field in the US.

Han Reichgelt, the university's regional vice-chancellor for academic affairs, said in a letter to the faculty, students and employees that the academic authorities decided to cancel this year's visit by African journalists because of the fear of this virus.

"We cancelled out of upmost (sic) caution due to concerns about transmission of Ebola virus, which has proved fatal for more than 50 percent of the people who have been infected. The CDC (Centres for Disease Control) has declared these outbreaks of Ebola as the largest and most complex in history," Reichgelt said in the letter.

He regretted the decision, but said that both faculty and students seemed nervous and it would have been difficult, under the circumstances, to develop a successful programme of seminars as USF has done in previous years.

"That would have been unfair to the visiting journalists if we put out a second-rate programme," the vice-chancellor said.

Most of the guest students were coming from outside the Ebola-infected areas of Africa, but two were from Liberia and Sierra Leone, the epicentre of the disease.

Though the US State Department asked if USF would revoke its decision if the journalists from those two countries would agree not to come, Reichgelt answered that, even with that, the faculty and students were not comfortable.

Ebola has been particularly contagious in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it has infected 9,191 people, of whom 4,546 have died.

IANS

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