UNC professor tries to stop Ebola from spreading in Africa

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- State health officials debriefed emergency response leaders on Ebola Friday morning, and began their meeting with a warning about the flu.

Dr. Julie Casani, the Director of Public Health Preparedness at NC DHHS tried proving the point that North Carolinians should spend their time getting a flu shot instead of worrying about Ebola here at home.

Meanwhile, UNC Journalism Professor Steven King is focused on fighting Ebola at the source. In August, he was tapped to create a data analysis program the Liberian government could use to track the spread of Ebola in their country and determine where and how to better use their resources.

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"To be able to see where soldiers might be needed, where healthcare officials might be needed, where more beds are going to be needed," King explained about his program, Dashboard.

As he watches Ebola spread beyond Liberia's borders, King is working to secure $1 million in funding so he can take Dashboard global. Expanding would require hiring a team, dedicated to gathering data in countries around the world, that would then help forecast outbreaks.

"We can't be limited by political geography," said King. "We need to be able to show how it spreads across all of the outbreak countries so it's not just one small piece of it."

Casani said it's unlikely Ebola will surface in North Carolina. Still, NC DHHS is preparing and setting out training guidelines for healthcare workers statewide.

"Infection control practices are practiced every day in every medical institution," she said. "But, if you're nervous and you're anxious and you're excited about how you're taking care of that patient you could make a mistake."

NC DHHS is also screening international travelers coming into North Carolina. Casani said her staff have been preparing for Ebola since July, and also screening college students and faculty who traveled abroad during the summer months.

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