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Are Ebola Fears Impacting Visitors For Annual Red River Showdown?

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - OU/Texas weekend is Dallas' biggest, busiest weekend of the year. But, something is missing this year — the buzz.

"The buzz is definitely different," says Jay Khan, General Manager of RJ Mexican Cuisine. Having spent some 20 years managing restaurants in the West End, Khan is a veteran of the Red River revelry, and admits that the mood of the city is somehow different this year.

"The West End is still going to have a lot going on… but, the decorations and the preparations that we usually do? It's definitely not there this year."

Khan thinks a couple of things have dampened enthusiasm for this year's big game. There's no national championship berth on the line-- both teams are coming off of losses. And then there's the Ebola scare. News of the nation's first diagnosis that occurred in Dallas has dominated headlines around the nation. And Khan wonders if worries over Ebola will keep some fans at home.

"I think it's affecting it. No doubt about that."

But, Southern Methodist University Communication Studies professor Rita Kirk, PhD, says it is simply too soon to say if Ebola's connection to Dallas will have a negative impact on the city's image long term.

"If you ask most people where did SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) originate, they couldn't tell you," says Dr. Kirk, who is also the Director of the Maguire Center for Ethics at SMU. "They've even largely forgotten that it was a similar medical crisis and not that long ago. So we have pretty short memories once the situation is contained and controlled."

OU Junior, Stefan Johanson is already hanging out in the West End and says fellow students are aware of the crisis—but, don't seem overly concerned.

"Everyone's still coming down for OU/Texas. It's the biggest weekend of the year!" Johanson said enthusiastically, adding, "the only thing that feels different is that OU lost last weekend and Texas really isn't that good."

Hey! In a century old rivalry, ANYTHING can happen! And local businesses, looking forward to getting a share of the estimated $30 to $40 million economic impact, hope that all of the surprises play out on the field.

"Come on down," urges Khan. "We're ready for ya!"

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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