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Family Sues After School Bars Student Because of Feared Ebola Exposure

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A Connecticut father sued his 3rd-grade daughter's school district this week, claiming it did not have legal justification to bar her from school because of officials' concerns she may have been exposed to Ebola.

Milford Public Schools has refused to allow the 7-year-old student to attend classes until Nov. 3, 2014—which will be 21 days after she returned from a family wedding in Nigeria, says the federal suit, filed by Stephen Opayemi in the U.S. District Court in Connecticut. Patients infected with Ebola begin displaying symptoms within 21 days of exposure. A fever is usually the first symptom, public health officials have said.

The girl, who hasn't been diagnosed with Ebola, also hasn't displayed any symptoms of the illness (infected people are not contagious unless they are symptomatic), and her family has offered to allow the school to monitor her temperature daily, the suit says.

Nigeria is also not among the West African countries that has been heavily affected by the Ebola virus. Ebola has hit Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia the hardest, causing 4,500 deaths so far. 

"On Monday, October 13, 2014, Stephen and Ikeoluwa returned to the United States from Nigeria by plane. Later that day, Dr. McBride contacted Stephen Opayemi by telephone and told him that Ikeoluwa should not return to Meadowside Elementary School due to concern from certain parents and teachers that she could transmit Ebola to other children," the suit says.

Connecticut is among a handful of states that have established their own quarantine procedures for certain medical workers, those who have been exposed to Ebola, and people returning from West Africa. It's unclear if the district's actions are related to the state's case-by-case policy.

Elsewhere, people have challenged the legal authority of such quarantines, saying they go well beyond the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts.

As I reported this month, Ebola experts say the risk of the virus spreading in schools is extremely low.

Update: The school announced Oct. 30 that it will allow the girl to return. Read more here.

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