Ebola: Is it Safe to Travel?
A shadow has been cast over the news of late by the Ebola outbreak in Africa. The now infamous disease is in the midst of ravaging West Africa, leaving a death toll that to date surpasses 1000 people. This bastard of a disease, which has no known vaccination and a fatality rate of 90%, spreads through human-to-human transmission and causes patients – among other things – to bleed both internally and through the skin. While this disease has yet to be seen on any other continent, and The World Health Organisation has been quick to release a statement saying that air travel is low risk for Ebola transmission, this hasn’t stopped global anxiety, with some countries such as Taiwan conducting Ebola detection exercises at its International Airport in Taipei. Unless you are planning a trip to the West African countries in the midst of this outbreak, you’re unlikely to be in danger of catching even a whiff of this disease. However, to ease the most worried of minds, I thought it best to run through a quick Q&A so those who haven’t been watching the news can feel a little more at ease before travelling internationally.
So Ebola… what’s up with that?
Well basically it’s a virus with a high fatality rate that is running rampant through humans. It first dominated in 1976, and while the origin is unknown, we are currently pointing the finger at furry little fruit bats.
So I only get it if I touch a fruit bat?
Unfortunately, no: the disease has moved on, and most cases have occurred because of human-to-human contact. This basically rules out any kind of bodily fluid swapping with an infected person, as the virus is transmitted through bodily secretions or broken skin. So no trading spit with an infected person and you might want to stay away from soiled clothing, used bed linen and needles.
Hmmm so I can’t get this disease if someone coughs near me?
Yep, 100% correct. It’s not airborne. Although if that person coughs saliva into your open mouth you should look out for symptoms.
Well just in case that happens, what are the symptoms?
This disease is rather crafty, and at first the symptoms are fairly generic: sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat are pretty much the norm.
OH MY GOD, I have a sore throat and a headache right now!
Calm down, these symptoms are usually followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, a rash and both internal and external bleeding.
Oh, okay I probably just have the flu right?
Yeah, but if you have recently been to West Africa, you are best to get checked out ASAP as early detection is the best way to fight this thing.
Okay so say I have been to Liberia, when is the best time to head to the doctor’s?
Immediately. Seriously, don’t dick about – go now.
So, the doctor can just prescribe me some antibiotics and I’m all good to go right?
Well, as it stands there is no vaccine for Ebola, although apparently WHO is trying to sort that shit out now. Instead, you will probably be placed in isolation and receive intensive care. They will load your poor dehydrated body up with fluids and basically just hope you’re strong enough to get through it.
Okay, this is sounding pretty bad; I’m flying to Thailand tomorrow, should I be re-considering international travel?
Have you not been listening? Ebola is not airborne and it can only be transmitted via direct contact, unless you are directly touching somebody’s bodily fluids with your bodily fluids, I’d say you’re pretty safe. You will be fine to get on a plane, and you would probably even be fine to sit next to someone with Ebola on the plane. Besides, you just said you were going to Asia, not Africa, and as of yet, there have been no reported outbreaks anywhere else.
Okay, so this is not like Contagion then? Because that spread really fast.
Yeah, it’s definitely not like Contagion. Some airlines have suspended flights to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia but so far there have been no vast international travel bans or crazy border protection schemes, so unless you are heading into Africa, your travel plans and health are good as gold.