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Ebola on travellers’ minds – even those from Australia

October 23, 2014 Destination Global, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Fear of Ebola is lurking in the minds of prospective travellers, travel agents report.

One agent, who spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity, said she had received several questions in recent weeks from clients anxious about the fatal disease – including one client who was intending to fly to Los Angeles, a city where Ebola has never been reported.

Paranoia about contagion at airports or on aircraft may not be rational from a medical perspective, but fear is not always rational and it can affect travel. Agents report that clients have little idea of African geography, in particular, and can confuse South Africa, which has no Ebola, with West Africa thousands of kilometres away, where the disease is raging in three countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

In latest international developments:

  • Nigeria and Senegal have been declared free of Ebola – a significant victory.  The disease arrived in Nigeria when an infected man flew to the Nigerian capital, Lagos, from Liberia. At the peak of the outbreak, Nigeria had 19 cases of the disease. Seven of the cases proved fatal. The outbreak was dealt with promptly and the country is now Ebola-free. Senegal had just one case, an infected man who walked across the border it shares with Guinea. Senegal is now Ebola-free as well.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) hopes to begin testing two experimental Ebola vaccines in west Africa by January and may have a blood serum treatment available for use in Liberia within two weeks, the Guardian reported today.
  • From now on, anyone flying to the United States from the three Ebola-affected countries in West Africa must enter through one of five airports screening for the disease. The US has instituted temperature checks for West Africans arriving at Kennedy International in New York, Newark Liberty International, Washington Dulles International, O’Hare International in Chicago, and Hartsfield-Jackson International in Atlanta. Passengers from Ebola-afflicted regions are now banned from entering through any other US airport.
  • Critics say “screening” (which means taking someone’s temperature) is next to useless when dealing with a disease that has an incubation period of up to 21 days (eight to 10 days is typical). You can be healthy on arrival in a country and fall sick and infectious a week later. Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who brought Ebola to America, had no fever when he flew to the US from Liberia. Many are demanding that arrivals from the affected countries be barred altogether, or all such passengers be quarantined for 21 days.
  • An airline passenger is being evaluated at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey due to Ebola concerns, CBS New York reported. Two others were hospitalized after getting off flights to Chicago. All had flown to the US from Liberia.
  • A scientific study using international flight data suggests that without screening at airports of departure, three infected people a month would, on average, fly out of West Africa to other countries. The authors note that screening isn’t failsafe because of the lengthy incubation period. “As the outbreak grows, we will be seeing more international exportations of Ebola,” Dr Kamran Kahn of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the study’s senior author, conceded.
  • The countries most at risk of getting imported Ebola cases are Ghana and Senegal (both near the infected region), followed (ominously for tourism) by Britain and France, the study found.
  • A new device similar to a simple pregnancy home-test could allow doctors to diagnose a patient with suspected Ebola in under 15 minutes, its French inventors and developers said yesterday.
  • The out-of-control epidemic has killed an estimated 4500 people and is lethal in about 70% of cases.

Written by : Peter Needham

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