An enormous crowd of parents pulled their children out of school Wednesday after learning that the Hazlehurst Middle School principal returned to work after a trip to southern Africa.
Principal Lee Wannik traveled to Zambia for his brother’s funeral, which is far from the Ebola hot spot countries on the other side of Africa.
A school official had previously said that Wannik had traveled to Nigeria, a country that has had Ebola cases in the last few months.
“As soon as I got word on Facebook I came and got my (children). I don’t know about anybody else, but I am coming to get mine,” said parent Candice Swan.
Parents said they’re concerned about their children’s health. Some even took their children out of class at the high school.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wannik does not have the virus, and he has agreed to take paid vacation time in an effort to alleviate fears that the school and children are in danger.
“He did not want to be a distraction to the educational process and decided to take personal vacation leave and volunteered to go see any additional medical help that he could,” said Superintendent John Sullivan.
The state’s epidemiologist has been brought in to try to quell fears in Hazlehurst. Dr. Thomas Dobbs said right now in Mississippi, there is not a risk of Ebola infection.
“The people we really need to pay attention to are those who have traveled only to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. If someone is coming back from another country in Africa, South Africa or some other place, there’s really no risk,” Dobbs said. “Folks in Hazlehurst and the rest of Mississippi don’t need to be worried about this.”
Dobbs said the Mississippi State Department of Health is very vigilant in making sure the state is prepared.
“If we get a case of Ebola virus, we can respond to it,” Dobbs said. “As far as general, run of the mill day operations, people don’t need to worry about Ebola virus.”
There is no indication when parents will bring their children back to school.