According to the latest report of the W.H.O (World Health Organization), the Ebola outbreak which, since December, has affected mainly Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, has caused more than 1,900 deaths. A direct consequence is that most airlines have now stopped flying to these countries.
Is this justified ? How is the virus transmitted ? What steps should be taken when travelling to, from, and in this region of West Africa ? Here are a few answers.
The transmission of Ebola virus
As stated by the W.H.O., the Ebola virus is not like, for example, influenza, transmitted by air, but instead only through direct contact with the body fluids of a sick person such as blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids, nor live or dead animals.
The risk of transmission when travelling by plane
In the case of the average traveller, the risk of transmission is unlikely. On their website, the W.H.O. states:
‘‘On the small chance that someone on the plane is sick with Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew having contact with their body fluids is even smaller. Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so unwell that they cannot travel. The W.H.O. is therefore advising against travel bans to and from affected countries.’’
Nevertheless, it is recommended that travellers to and from countries affected by Ebola take certain precautions. During the trip if you or another passenger show symptoms of the virus such as fever, muscle aches, sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhea or bleeding, tell the cabin crew immediately.
At the airport, and your destination, avoid direct physical contact with anyone showing these symptoms, do not touch an infected dead person’s body, and wash your hands with a water-alcohol solution throughout the day.
Since the emergence of the virus in 1976, the death toll of this epidemic, which has raged for eight months, is without precedent. The W.H.O. has given itself 6-9 months to stem the transmission of Ebola.