FORT KENT — Some students at the University of Maine at Fort Kent were vowing to skip classes if a classmate whose girlfriend treated Ebola patients in West Africa returned to campus.

Initial reaction appeared to be swift and strong Monday after school officials notified students that the nurse who had been involuntarily held under quarantine in New Jersey was traveling to Maine to live in an off-campus house with her boyfriend, a student in the School of Nursing. Maine has said it expects the nurse, Kaci Hickox, to abide by a 21-day voluntary quarantine.

Robert Dixon, vice president of academic affairs at the university on the Canadian border, said Monday evening that if the nursing student, Theodore Wilbur, is in direct contact with Hickox while she is under watch for possible Ebola infection, then Wilbur would not be allowed on campus until he, too, is cleared of any health risk.

“We have to respond to how people are going to feel about it, and we don’t want hysteria on the campus,” Dixon said, after an email had been sent out to all students alerting them to the situation.

But Jazzmine Gray, a 21-year-old psychology student who had been in the nursing program, said that from messages she has received from fellow students and seen on social media, hysteria already has hit.

“One of my friends texted me and said that if he (Wilbur) is there, she’s walking out,” said Gray, speaking in the student library. “There’s already people talking about not going to class.”


Gray’s friend, nursing student Jon Wing, agreed that people he talked to were overreacting.

As a former nursing student, Gray said she and other students who have training in health care feel the fear is overblown.

Wing, 24, attends classes with Wilbur in pediatrics and adult health on a weekly basis and had expected to see him in classes this Thursday.

“It’s just people who don’t have a clue, people all wanting to put their two cents in,” Wing said. “Until they know for sure, it’s premature to jump on someone’s case.”

Dixon said campus officials did not know where Wilbur was as of Monday evening, whether he was still in Fort Kent or had traveled to New Jersey to be with Hickox, and that it was too soon to say exactly how the university would respond if Wilbur came on campus.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said the administration will take “appropriate action” if Hickox doesn’t comply with the in-home quarantine. Bennett wouldn’t specify what that meant, and it wasn’t clear how that would affect Wilbur.


He had been working temporarily in Bangor while practicing student nursing at Eastern Maine Medical Center through a university program, but he completed that program last week, Dixon said.

Waves of media from New York, Boston and from around Maine had arrived in town by Monday evening. Several journalists worked on laptops in the lobby of the Northern Door Inn off Main Street, and trucks with more television crews arrived. Television, newspaper and wire service media workers set up cameras on the university campus after sunset and conducted interviews.

Gray, who is from Sangerville, said that she had been getting alerts on her phone in class and read news reports that Hickox was on her way to Maine in a convoy of two black SUVs provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is not going to be good when she gets here. Word spreads fast in this town,” Gray said.

Wing, who is from Greenville, said that most of the comments he heard from fellow students Monday were negative, against both Wilbur and Hickox.

“It’s pretty much abuzz, whether they know anything or not,” Wing said. “It’s getting blown out of proportion.”

Wing described Wilbur as a “down to earth,” knowledgeable nursing student who had worked in a variety of different fields before coming to Fort Kent.


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