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Ebola Fears Harm Business At Local West African Restaurant

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The owner of a West African restaurant in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota says fear surrounding Ebola may force her to close.

During the lunch hour, Mama Ti's restaurant owner Kellita Whisnant says there used to be a rush.

The Liberian-born businesswoman says her American dream was to open a restaurant inspired by her mother's diverse cooking.

"I have faith that, you know, this place, if it's supposed to be here any longer we will be here," Whisnant said.

After three years in business, she says fear of Ebola -- which originated in West Africa -- is close to shutting her down.

"It hurts a little bit, but for me, my customers that are not coming are not the customers that are informed or aware of the issues. It's those who are afraid," she said.

Whisnant says she's tried explaining that her food doesn't come from Liberia, and the virus is transmitted through bodily fluids.

David Johnson, supervisor of epidemiology for Hennepin County Health Department, is in full agreement.

"Ebola is not spread through food, it's not spread through the air," Johnson said.

He says he hasn't heard of complaints targeting West African businesses, but says there are a lot of misconceptions about Ebola.

Johnson says an infected person can't begin to spread the virus until they start to show symptoms. He says that can take up to three weeks.

But the symptoms are usually so severe they require immediate medical attention.

For Whisnant, the only cure for fear is knowledge.

"If a person is afraid and they don't make themselves aware, they'll stay stuck in that fear," Whisnant said.

The health department says there won't be any additional precautions to protect against Ebola at this time in Minnesota since there have been no reported cases in the state.

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