An elementary school teacher in Strong, Maine was placed on paid leave over Ebola fears after a trip to Dallas--even though there is no indication the teacher came into contact with anyone infected with the virus.
The school district posted a statement on its website indicating that parents had expressed concern about their children possibly contracting the virus from the teacher, who had recently traveled to Dallas. There have been three confirmed Ebola cases in the Texas city since Sept. 30, though the teacher, who was not identified, is not believed to have come into contact with anyone who has been infected or exposed to the virus, the district's statement said.
Still, "after several discussions with the staff member and out of an abundance of caution," the district decided to place the teacher on leave for 21 days--the amount of time health experts say it takes for possible symptoms to show.
Locals had mixed opinions about the district's decision.
"They didn't want her to come back with it," said Strong resident Roscoe Libby. "They did the right thing."
Fellow resident Sue Kennedy disagreed. "She should be able to teach and go back to school...she wasn't in contact with anybody who might have had it," she said.
Dr. Gene Beresin, Executive Director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, and a psychiatrist at Mass General and Harvard Medical School, says while over-precautions, like those taken by the Maine school district may only serve to breed fear, they reflect normal instincts.
“The first response is typically hysterical and catastrophic thinking," said Dr. Beresin. "Our brains just get tweaked because we’re afraid of dying, we’re afraid of contagion, we’re afraid of the unknown.”
Dr. Beresin says once we overcome that initial feeling of panic, it helps to focus on the facts and become educated about the disease. And he says that it starts with people in powerful positions, like community leaders, health care workers and even parents.
“Parents have to curb their own anxiety and hysteria because, it’s contagious," said Dr. Beresin. "It’s more contagious than Ebola.”