Nursing home workers told not to touch residents due to Ebola concerns

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U.S. nursing home workers who hail from West Africa are being stigmatized as potential Ebola carriers and forbidden from touching residents, according to IRIN, an independent news service launched by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In an article published online Friday, IRIN reporter Philippa Garson focused on Staten Island's “Little Liberia.” Many of the “several thousand” Liberians in that New York City community work in hospitals and nursing homes, where they are being told not to touch patients, Garson reported.

Oretha Bestman-Yates, president of the Staten Island Liberian Community, said she returned from a trip to Liberia in July and went through a 21-day quarantine, but still has not been allowed back at the hospital where she is employed. Garson described instances of West Africans being stigmatized in other parts of the country as well.

Activist Bobby Digi said that people are overreacting because they have only a vague idea of African geography and a poor understanding of how Ebola actually is spread.

Long-term care providers can refer to Ebola guidelines posted online by the Ohio Health Care Association last week. Facilities in that state are on special notice, because a nurse traveled to Cleveland after becoming infected in Dallas.

A nursing home in Rhode Island was locked down briefly on Thursday, based on fears that a worker there might have contracted Ebola during a recent trip to Nigeria. The worker displayed flu-like symptoms and was taken to the hospital, where Ebola was ruled out because Nigeria no longer has any active cases, according to local news reports.