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Actions Taken To Prevent Ebola Outbreak In West Africa From Reaching Kenya And Suspension Of Kenya Airways Flights

August 22, 2014 Tourist Boards No Comments Email Email

Following the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, there has been no cases of Ebola reported in Kenya to-date.

Below is an update on the virus; the situation as at 21 August, 2014 and the efforts Kenya private and public sectors are taking to ensure the safe wellbeing of all visitors to Kenya:

1. The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and involves Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone

2. Kenya is not affected by the outbreak of Ebola as to date there has never been any recorded case of Ebola in this country

3. The affected countries are on the extreme West of the African Continent, thousands of kilometers from Kenya and indeed Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are closer to Madrid, Paris and London than they are to Kenya in East Africa

4. From midnight on Tuesday 19th August Kenya Airways will temporarily suspend all its flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone on the advice of Kenya’s Ministry of Health as a measure to prevent the spread of Ebola from those countries until the outbreak there has been brought under control. The Kenya government also announced other restrictions because of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa and is temporarily suspending entry into Kenya of any passengers who have passed through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia

5. Travellers from other countries in West Africa can come to Kenya by air just as they can travel at present on flights from West Africa to Europe, America, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. The international airlines have implemented screening for passengers boarding flights in West Africa and the Kenyan Government and Ministry of Health, working in close co-operation with the Kenya Airports Authority, have now set up arrangements at the international airport in Nairobi to screen all passengers arriving on flights from West Africa to prevent any infected person from entering the country and, if required, to provide medical care in an isolation unit

6. It is considered very unlikely that travellers from the affected countries would come to Kenya overland by road as it could entail a journey of more than 2 weeks and would require driving through places like the Central African Republic, DRC or Southern Sudan where there are serious security issues and disruptions to road travel. Any infected person setting off from West Africa to undertake such a journey by road to Kenya would be very likely to have developed obvious symptoms before arriving at the Kenya border post where screening is now in place to identify and isolate anyone considered to be at risk of carrying the disease so that appropriate medical treatment may be given if required. So the possibility of Ebola spreading overland from the affected countries in West Africa to Kenya is considered extremely unlikely

7. According to the medical authorities, the overall risk of a traveller or tourist contracting Ebola is very low as it requires direct contact with the bodily fluids or secretions (e.g.blood, saliva, urine, etc) from an infected person exhibiting symptoms or from a dead body. Ebola is not an airborne virus like influenza or tuberculosis, it is not spread by coughing or sneezing and is not present in water or food. Simply washing hands with soap and water can destroy the virus. It should also be noted that infected individuals who have not yet developed symptoms of Ebola cannot transmit the disease to others. It takes time before infected persons develop symptoms of the disease and they become contagious only after the first onset of symptoms. As symptoms worsen, the ability to transmit the virus increases. As a result, patients are usually most likely to infect others at a severe stage of the disease, when they are visibly, and physically, too ill to travel and at that stage they will probably not be physically capable of boarding an aircraft unassisted. The World Health Organization (WHO) is therefore advising against imposing travel bans to and from affected countries. The Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response has stated that because the risk of Ebola transmission on aircraft is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola. The highest Ebola virus level is found in a dead body, according to WHO, so the highest risk of Ebola transmission is in preparing a body for burial. The persons most at risk are those in very close direct contact with infected patients or corpses such as doctors, nurses or mortuary attendants

8. WHO has clarified that Kenya’s Ebola risk profile has not changed, as reported by the media. In a statement, the WHO has commended Kenya for its efforts in putting in place measures to prevent possible importation and to implement early detection and containment if a case is detected in an arriving traveller

9. Staying in international hotels in Nairobi and at the coastal beach resorts or going on safari to the wildlife parks in Kenya at the present time is considered to entail no risk of contracting Ebola and there is no reason for visitors to cancel or postpone travel plans to Kenya. We will continue to monitor the news bulletins and daily updates from The World Health Organization and Kenya’s Ministry of Health to ensure that we are kept informed and can act in the interests of our visitors’ safety, which is always our highest priority

Jake Grieves-Cook, Gamewatchers Safaris & Porini Camp, managing director said “the Ebola outbreak has already been in existence in West Africa for the past five months and it was only when it was highlighted in the media that there was panic for a few days.

“People were initially anxious because they were ill-informed. Some were not familiar with the geography of Africa and seemed to think of it as a country rather than a continent! They did not fully realise that countries on the West Coast are very far away from Kenya in East Africa. Others were not aware that Ebola can be transmitted only by direct contact with people suffering from the severe symptoms of Ebola in the final stages of the disease or from contact with dead bodies,” Mr Grieves-Cook said.

“Once people found out a bit more about how it is actually transmitted and that it poses very little risk to air travellers and tourists, those who were initially anxious have calmed down. And then with the suspension of flights by Kenya Airways to Nairobi from the affected countries, people realised that the risk of catching Ebola in Kenya was no greater than anywhere else connected to West Africa by airlines. So now we have stopped getting cancellations or queries about the risk of Ebola from anxious travellers and bookings have started to return to normal,” he said.

Dr. Custodia Mandlhate, World Health Organization representative said “Kenya is not currently affected by the outbreak of Ebola since it has not confirmed any case. In this regard it is clarified that due to air connectivity and geographical proximity to countries currently having the Ebola outbreak, most if not all African countries could be classified as category II. Therefore Kenya is not unique in terms of exposure and risk to transmission compared to other African countries.

“The World Health Organization Kenya country office would therefore like to make this clarification that the country’s Ebola risk profile has not changed as reported by the international media,” she said.

“We note and commend the country for its efforts in putting up measures to prevent possible importation, and implement early detection and containment measures if a case is detected. On behalf of the world health organization I reiterate our continued support to the government of Kenya and its partners in mitigating the consequences of the Ebola threat,” Dr. Mandlhate said.

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