What Travelers Need to Know about the Ebola Outbreak

October 2, 2014 |

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are encouraging travelers to avoid the Ebola Zone in West Africa. According to the New York Times, the outbreak has reached countries including Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea and Senegal.

The World Health Organization reported that there have been 6,242 reported cases of Ebola throughout West Africa and at least 2,909 people have died from the illness. Most of the deaths have been in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The source stated that 21 cases of infection have been recorded in Nigeria and Senegal and there have been eight deaths.

The New York Times said there has also been a separate outbreak of the illness in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 41 people have died from Ebola in this area.

Traveling to West Africa

The CDC issued a Watch Level 3 warning for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This warning means that passengers should avoid nonessential travel to these three countries. A Watch Level 2 warning was issued for Nigeria as well as the Democratic Republic of Congo, and means that travelers should practice enhanced precautions when visiting these two countries.

According to the source, the CDC recommends that foreign exchange programs, research and other education-related travel to West Africa be postponed until further notice.

Ebola in the US

Despite being centered in West Africa, some are worried of the danger that it may pose to those living in the U.S. Several people who contracted Ebola in West Africa have been brought to the US under quarantine to be treated for the disease. The first case of Ebola occurring in the United States was reported last week when a Liberian citizen visiting Dallas was diagnosed with the disease. A close watch has been placed on all those who may have contact with him.

According to the New York Times, US health officials are using a tactic called contact tracing to identify anyone who could have potentially been exposed to the infected patient and then watch them for Ebola symptoms over the course of three weeks. Anyone with symptoms is then tested for the disease, quarantined and treated. This process repeats and continues until no symptoms are found in those potentially exposed.

In addition, CNN reports that screening may begin taking place at major US airports soon. Doctors throughout the US are reminded to check the travel history of patients that have symptoms that may correspond with Ebola.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a viral illness that is spread when an individual comes into direct contact with the blood, urine, vomit or other bodily fluids of an infected person. People can also contract the Ebola virus by coming into direct contact with infected fruit bats, gorillas, monkeys, chimpanzees and their meat. Contaminated objects such as needles and soiled clothing and bed linen can also cause one to contract Ebola.

The illness can not be transmitted by coughing or sneezing, so by avoiding direct contact and travel to this part of the world, the spread of Ebola can be minimized.

Symptoms of Ebola include the following:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • Vomiting

It’s important to know that it can take up to three weeks after the initial infection for the symptoms of Ebola to appear. There are currently vaccines that are being developed to treat the illness, but it could take two months for them to be available.

Medical personnel in West Africa have tried to use antiviral medicines to treat those who have Ebola, but have not seen effective results. Those who have recently traveled to West Africa, whether on business travel or vacation, should see a doctor even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms similar to those of Ebola.

Additional Resources: 

CNN: Ebola-infected American to arrive at Nebraska Medical Center

Mashable: The Ebola Outbreak Reaches the U.S.: Your Questions Answered

New York Times: What Are the Chances Ebola Will Spread in the United States?