The outbreak of Ebola is ongoing in certain West African countries, the most severe outbreak since it was identified in 1976. It began in Guinea in December 2013 and then spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. A small outbreak occurred in Nigeria and one case occurred in Senegal. Following a 42-day waiting period, both Nigeria and Senegal were declared disease-free, as of 20th and 17th October 2014 respectively.
To put the risk of Ebola in context for volunteers travelling to our African projects, the distance between our closest projects in Africa and the outbreak is greater than the distance between Madrid and the outbreak. The distance between London and the outbreak, is approximately the same as the distance between Windhoek (the closest of our travel hubs) and the outbreak. Unlike the USA and Spain, none of the countries in which we offer projects has had a case of Ebola transmission related to this outbreak. For example, Rwanda have banned entry to people travelling from countries at the centre of the outbreak (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) and screen patients travelling to Rwanda from countries with confirmed cases of Ebola transmission including Spain and the USA, but not countries in East and South Africa where there has been no such transmission. The average annual death toll in the USA from influenza (flu) each year (CDC data 1976-2007, average 23,000) is over 6 times higher than the worldwide death toll from Ebola (WHO data 2014, 3,800) Unlike Ebola, influenza (flu) is readily transmissible via the air, whereas Ebola requires close, unprotected contact with an infected individual.
What is Ebola?
- Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a death rate of up to 90% (55-60% in this outbreak).
- The illness affects humans and non-human primates (monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees).
What are typical signs and symptoms of infection?
- Sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat are typical signs and symptoms. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.
When do symptoms appear?
- Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to the Ebola virus, though 8-10 days is most common.
How is Ebola transmitted?
- Ebola is transmitted by direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes/mouth) with the blood or bodily fluids (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of an infected symptomatic person or though exposure to objects (such as needles, clothing or bed linen) that have been contaminated with infected secretions.
- Transmission can occur from direct contact with the bodily fluids of a deceased person who had Ebola virus.
Can Ebola be transmitted through the air?
- No. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air.
Can I get Ebola from contaminated food or water?
- No. Ebola is not a food-borne illness nor is it a water-borne illness.
Can I get Ebola from a person who is infected but doesn’t have any symptoms?
- No. Individuals who are not symptomatic (showing signs) are not contagious. In order for the virus to be transmitted, an individual would have to have direct contact with an individual who is experiencing symptoms (as detailed above).
Volunteers with Amanzi Travel
All of the volunteer projects that Amanzi Travel work with are in South or East Africa, where there have been zero cases reported of Ebola. Everyone is hoping that it will not spread into other African countries but if there are problems and governments advise against travelling to any particular countries, then of course we shall make alternative arrangements for volunteers who have booked with us. The safety of our volunteers is always of paramount importance to us, and be assured that we will always take appropriate action to ensure safety at all times.
The Ebola outbreak is closer to Europe, than South Africa or East Africa
The distance to West Africa, were Ebola indeed is a hazard, is much further away from any of these projects, than from Europe.
Ebola Outbreak Area to London = 4,858km
Ebola Outbreak Area to Madrid = 3,594km
Ebola Outbreak Area to Cape Town = 5,597km
Ebola Outbreak Area to Windhoek = 4,554km
Ebola Outbreak Area to Nairobi = 5,312km
Map of Distance to Ebola Outbreak Area
It is also important to take into consideration, that there is much less frequent travel connections along African routes than in Europe (e.g. buses, trains or vehicles). In addition, at airports and borders, official specialized health care units examine every single passengers before granting entry.
“To those of you who are Ebola-concerned, you’ll be pleased to know they are taking precautions. In Johannesburg and Windhoek I had to fill out forms detailing where I’d been recently and they temperature zapped everyone before you could enter the terminal building in Windhoek too.”
– latest report from one of our volunteers, Ngaire, heading to the Namibia Wildlife Sanctuary, near Windhoek.
What are Amanzi Travel doing to protect volunteers?
- The countries we are operating in have border controls to prevent the spread of the disease and many have travel bans on people from countries with recorded outbreaks
- All of the local staff have received a detailed briefing on the virus and what actions to take if someone demonstrates any of the symptoms
- We are constantly monitoring statements from various Governments and Health Authorities to ensure we are up to date on how to protect our volunteers, staff and the communities we work with.
To soothe your worries about booking a trip and travelling to South or East Africa, please consider the following points:
- The distance from virtually all of our volunteer projects, overland tours and courses we offer, is further away to West Africa, than the distance from Europe to West Africa.
- There are limited frequent travel routes via land directly, connecting Southern and Eastern Africa with West Africa.
- Every passenger travelling from the effected countries, via air, or crossing the boarders by land are being questioned and examined before approval of entry.
- Revised cancellation policy for many volunteer projects.
- Committed to providing a safe experience for our volunteers.
Should you still have any concerns, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily assist you in any queries.
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What is the UK doing to ensure no Ebola outbreak in the UK?
Screening is currently in force at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and at Eurostar terminals, which will cover approximately 90% of passengers coming from the affected region.
Using existing Border Force technology, passenger data will be used to identify those passengers who have recently travelled from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea on routes with onward connection to the UK. All those travelling from the affected countries will have their temperature taken and complete a questionnaire asking about their current health, recent travel history, and whether they might be at potential risk through contact with Ebola patients.
Based on the information provided and their temperature, passengers will either be given advice and allowed to continue their journey, or will undergo a clinical assessment by healthcare staff. If necessary, they’ll be transferred to hospital for further tests.
Anyone who is well but may have been at increased risk of contact with the Ebola virus will be given printed information and a telephone number to call if they develop symptoms.
What is the USA doing to avoid Ebola breaking out in the USA?
Similarly, the CDC is implementing an enhanced entry screening at five U.S. airports that receive over 94% of travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The CDC has also issued a Warning, Level 3 notice for U.S. citizens, and have introduced a post-arrival active monitoring program, plus developed a Travel Health Alert Notice (T-HAN) that is handed out by Customs and Border Protection to people arriving in the United States from a country with Ebola. For more detailed information about what is being done in the USA, please take a look at the CDC website. http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/what-cdc-is-doing.html