DES MOINES, Iowa -- For Tess Montgomery, a winter break study abroad trip to western Africa sounds like a perfect way to find her roots and make a difference in the lives of children with so little.
"I have friends who have taken this trip and go on and on about how amazing and life changing it is,” said Montgomery, a senior at Drake University.
Montgomery and 12-15 other Drake students are scheduled to take a 10 day trip to Ghana, a country just east of Guinea where 319 people have lost their lives to Ebola.
"It’s very concerning."
With no confirmed cases of Ebola in Ghana, the trip is still on. It's up to a risk assessment team at Drake University to decide whether it stays that way.
"The risk assessment committee gets a good look at it and they use a lot of resources,” said Jill Johnson, an associate professor at Drake.
Officials will work with the Centers for Disease Control to monitor the outbreak and keep in touch with sources already in the country.
"Ultimately, they want the experience to be a great positive experience and if people are fearful and there's a great risk, this won't be a positive experience for anybody,” said Johnson.
If the trip does go on as scheduled, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk with the Iowa Department of Public Health offers the same advice to students she does to anyone traveling to an exotic country.
Visit a traveling clinic before leaving.
"The thing travel clinics can do is they have the most up to date information about the health risks there and they have access to exotic vaccines your local healthcare provider doesn't have in their office,” said Dr. Quinlisk.
While officials keep an eye on Ghana, Montgomery will keep her fingers crossed. The opportunity to study abroad is running out for this Drake senior.
"I've always wanted to travel abroad. I haven’t had a chance my first three years,” said Montgomery.
The risk assessment team will review the situation in western Africa sometime in October before moving on and booking the trip for students.
There is no vaccine for Ebola, so should the disease spread into Ghana, the university could choose to cancel the trip up to the very last minute.
Disease isn't the only factor the risk assessment team deals with. Student trips have been canceled due to political turmoil and even war in the past.