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Gov. Dayton Updates State On Ebola Preparedness

MINNEAPOLS (WCCO) -- With Minnesota home to the largest Liberian population outside of West Africa, there's growing concern that the deadly virus could travel here.

That's why Gov. Mark Dayton called together a panel of health, public safety and government leaders on Friday to update Minnesota's plans and preparedness.

At that meeting, health leaders made it clear that the state must dig in for a very long fight. Concerns over how best to defend against an Ebola threat will be here until the outbreak in West Africa is over.

As the world watches the growing death toll in Africa and a slow, terrifying creep in Texas, Minnesota leaders are preparing for the worse.

"We've learned a lot on the situation in Texas," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehrlinger. "We've understood that it's really the health care workers that are at the greatest risk."

Already, Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport is identifying and testing passengers who exhibit any signs of illness.

"Those people are pulled aside, they're evaluated, their temperatures taken," said Metropolitan Airports Commission Executive Director Jeff Hamiel. "That is taking place today when we see a particular purpose or a need for that to be executed or done."

In addition, the Minnesota Department of Health is working with all hospitals to identify symptoms in potential patients. Those patients would be isolated and transported to more specialized centers around the state -- hospitals that are equipped and trained in treating patients with the highly contagious virus.

"We've set up an incident command structure and we've linked with the hospitals throughout the community," Ehrlinger said.

Public meetings with Liberian-Americans are already taking place to help inform citizens and prevent any stigmatizing.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says protecting Minnesotans will ultimately depend on the fight in Africa.

"In addition to the work we have to do to protect Minnesotans in this country, we have to remember the best way is to stop it at the source -- reduce it in Africa," Klobuchar said.

On Saturday, Dayton will meet privately at his residence with the Minnesota Nurses Association, as well as doctors, hospital administrators and first responders.

He wants to learn what each needs to be fully prepared, if or when the first Minnesota patient arises.

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