It’s very smart for colleges to be on high alert. Any time you have so many people living so closely, diseases can spread rapidly.

Katherine Mangan of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

As Ebola Fears Touch Campuses, Officials Respond With an ‘Excess of Caution’

Colleges across the country faced Ebola scares this week that sent at least one graduate student to the hospital, several employees into quarantine, and untold numbers of students into an unnecessary panic.

The widespread fear that has gripped the nation since two health-care workers in Dallas contracted the Ebola virus from a Liberian man who died there on October 8 has campus officials performing a delicate dance.

On the one hand, they want to take extra precautions when there is even a remote chance Ebola might find its way onto their campuses. On the other hand, they’re trying to avoid what a University of Wisconsin epidemiologist called “hysterical reactions that are not based on science.”

Few would fault Yale University for hospitalizing a doctoral student who came down with Ebola-like symptoms on Wednesday night, four days after returning from Liberia.

The public-health student tested negative for Ebola after 24 tense hours in which he was treated in isolation at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The student, who wasn’t identified, is one of two students who were working with health officials in Liberia on a computer disease-tracking system. Even though they said they hadn’t been in contact with infected patients, the students volunteered to stay away from work for 21 days, the generally recognized incubation time for the virus, but university officials decided that wasn’t necessary.

The decision to hospitalize the student after a low-grade fever was detected was made “out of an abundance of caution,” based on the recommendations of doctors and local, state, and federal officials, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, said in a written statement.