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Local Liberians urge 'voluntary quarantine' of all arriving immigrants

After a Liberian man became the first death from Ebola on U.S. soil, local officials and West African immigrants are working to make sure that nothing similar happens in Philly.

Ebola virus particles. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Ebola virus particles. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After a Liberian man became the first death from Ebola on U.S. soil, local officials and West African immigrants are working to make sure that nothing similar happens in Philly.

"We are doing our part to make sure it doesn't spread in the U.S.," said Pastor Moses Suah Dennis, president of the Liberian Ministers Association of the Delaware Valley. "We’ve been very very concerned about that, given what we saw in Dallas."

Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan died Oct. 8 in Dallas, the first death in the U.S. caused by Ebola hemorrhagic fever. A Dallas nurse was also infected but is reportedly recovering.

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Philadelphia Health Department spokesman James Garrow said local border officials and medical care facilities already monitor visitors to Philadelphia for disease, but the network is "enhanced" right now to look for signs of Ebola.

"Every day we work with hospitals in the city ... They let us know what they’re seeing coming through," Garrow said. "We're able to give them one specific thing -- this is what we're looking for. ... It's just an enhanced version of of what we normally do."

Dennis said his organization has done outreach with every Liberian church and mosque to urge the community to keep anyone arriving from West Africa isolated from large groups of people for 21 days while checking their temperature twice daily, to be sure they don't have Ebola.

"One of my church members has a mother coming from Liberia," Dennis said. "We're asking the family to keep her home, not bring her to church, check the temperature daily and just make sure everything is OK. We tell them this is for the good of everybody. So far, the community thinks it's a good idea."

The community will also hold a march on Oct. 25 on Woodland Terrace in Southwest Philly to raise awareness for SupportLiberia.org, an organization seeking to send supplies to Liberia, where not just Ebola but famine caused by disruptions to commerce caused by the epidemic have led to thousands of deaths.

Locals had varying views about whether the Philadelphia region is at risk for Ebola.

"I'm confident that the city can protect us from an outbreak, but I am absolutely not confident that they can protect us from having cases," said resident Amber Gay. "That man just happened to be traveling to Dallas, he could have been visiting family anywhere."

Shawn McDonald said he is concerned about the chance of the disease reaching the city.

"Not really, no," McDonald said when asked if he had faith that the city could prevent the disease from spreading.

"I'm not scared that it would hit here, I'm just scared that if it does hit, how fast it would hit ... I'm not scared of it spreading, but if it do hit the city I would be worried."

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