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USF Cancels African Journalists Visit; Ebola Fears Blamed

University of South Florida

Officials at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg have canceled a five-day visit by 14 African journalists that was to begin Oct. 31, because of fears of the Ebola virus.

In a letter today written by Han Reichgelt, regional vice president for academic affairs (see below), he says they're doing so out of an abundance of caution.

"We canceled out of upmost caution due to fears of transmission of Ebola virus, which has proved fatal for more than 50 percent of the people who have been infected," he wrote in a letter to faculty, staff and students in USF St. Petersburg's Journalism and Media Studies Department.

"I personally believe that the likelihood of USFSP introducing the Ebola virus into our community is extremely low. However, it is also clear that, should we do so, the impact on our stake holders, our students, faculty, staff and the community that we are a proud member of, would be devastating, and our first responsibility has to be our stake holders."

The letter said some faculty, students and staff had expressed fear of possible exposure. Even though there is "minuscule risk," the fear might interfere with the relaxed exchange of information between the hosts and visitors, Reichgelt said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon.

He said only two of the 14 fellows who were to visit are from countries in which Ebola is epidemic, Liberia and Sierra Leone.  He said USF-St. Pete officials asked the State Department whether they could host the other 12 journalists, but the answer was no -- all or nothing.

USF-St Pete’s Department of Journalism and Media studies has hosted the Edward R. Murrow Visiting Journalists program, organized by the U.S. State Department, three times before. Last year, the campus hosted a forum of visiting African journalists.

This isn't the first visit by visiting African journalists that was canceled during the recent outbreak.

The University of Georgia has canceled a Liberian journalist's appearance on campus because of Ebola fears.

And Syracuse University has "disinvited" a Washington Post photographer because he was in Liberia three weeks ago. 

Here's the letter from USF St. Petersburg: