As I write this post a West African Ebola outbreak is making international headlines.
Back in the day I studied the geography of Ebola at the University of Washington. I have also read a good number of books and watched a number of Hollywood thrillers about Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers. In short it is some scary stuff. However a comment made to me by a professor many years ago cut to the reality… “The Ebola virus, much like HIV or hepatitis, is spread through blood or bodily fluids and is not airborne. Add to this the fact that Ebola burns too fast… unlike HIV / AIDS which can be spread by an infected person for years, Ebola kills in a matter of days making a widespread epidemic very difficult to sustain.”
Ebola in fact is hard to contract and good infection-control practices can stop its spread. What’s more, Ebola is much less contagious than many other more common diseases.
For travelers the risk of contracting Ebola is considered very low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva. Ebola can’t be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air. Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms. The most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in very close contact with the sick. Ebola can be contracted from traces of feces or vomit, experts say.
At this time the outbreak is occurring in West Africa… most safari travelers visit either Eastern or Southern Africa… these areas have had very high HIV / AIDS rates for more than 30 years. Realistically As Ebola is contracted in much the same way as HIV / AIDS then travelers should have little to worry about – I have lived and worked happily in both Tanzania and Zimbabwe and spend a great deal of each year in Africa without worry. I will be back in Africa shortly and Ebola will be on my mind – not that I am worried that I will be at risk but for the people of West Africa who are suffering at this time.
Also interesting to note that East Africa is further from the affected area than London, England. There are also fewer direct flights from affected area to East Africa than to Europe.
As of this writing none of our clients have expressed the desire to cancel their safari arrangements… We have however looked into it and have been told by travel insurer’s that cancellation of a safari due to the fear of Ebola is not covered by travel insurance unless you have cancel for any reason coverage.
Happy and safe travels!
Ultimate Africa founder and president