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School Will Allow Girl to Return After Barring Her Out of Fear of Ebola Exposure

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The Milford, Conn., school district will allow a 3rd-grade student to return to school after it had required her to stay home because of feared exposure to the Ebola virus on a recent family trip to Nigeria, the district announced late Thursday.

The girl's father, Stephen Opayemi, had sued in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, saying the district wasn't legally justified in requiring his daughter to stay out of school for 21 days, which is the incubation period of the virus. Nigeria is not among the West African countries heavily hit by the virus, and the girl has no symptoms of the illness. (Even people who have been exposed to Ebola are not contagious if they are not symptomatic).

Following heavy media coverage of the case, the school released a joint statement with the girl's family Thursday evening saying it would allow the student to return Friday as part of a settlement. Had she stayed home the entire 21 days, she would have been allowed to return Nov. 3.

"A Health Assessment Record, dated October 24, 2014, has been provided to the Milford Public Schools, documenting that the student's pediatrician has examined her and has certified that she is perfectly healthy and can take part in school activities, without restriction," the statement said. "The student has had no contact with any ebola patients and she does not have ebola. The student does not present any health risk to any individual."

As I reported this month, Ebola experts say the risk of the virus spreading in schools is extremely low. But that hasn't stopped some schools from declining to welcome students, staff, or guests who have recently traveled to Africa, even if that travel was to countries thousands of miles away from affected areas.

Ebola can only be spread through contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the virus and is displaying symptoms.

Experts recommend schools consult local health authorities before restricting students' attendance or closing a school due to feared Ebola exposure.


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