The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has received widespread media coverage. And, amongst the science and statistics, there have been far too many alarmist headlines with irresponsible reporting spreading undue panic. But what are the facts? Just how contagious is this disease and is there any risk of contracting it if you travel to Africa?
At Southern Africa Travel we are monitoring the situation closely, and strive to give you up-to-date and balanced information. Firstly, we’d like to stress that our main concern is our clients’ safety; nothing is more important! Having the best vacation and safari of your life is our promise, and we would never take unnecessary risks in fulfilling that dream.
So, with that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about the Ebola outbreak to help you make an informed choice about travel to Southern Africa:
Latest Ebola Update
Africa is a vast continent made up of 53 countries. The Ebola outbreak has affected five countries in West Africa, two of which - Nigeria and Senegal - have beaten the disease and been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This means that no new cases have been reported in either Nigeria or Senegal for over 42 days (double Ebola’s incubation period).
Thus the epidemic is currently only prevalent in three West Africa nations: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Here, the vast majority of Ebola victims are poor city dwellers. And, while we certainly do not want to downplay the tragedy suffered by those who have lost family members to this devastating disease, we do want to clear up the misunderstanding of who, exactly, is at risk.
Apart from a few isolated cases, Ebola has been largely restricted to the three countries where the outbreak originated. Presenting the outbreak as gripping West Africa is ill-advised as it includes unaffected countries or, worse still, grouping the whole of Africa into the crisis.
There have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in any of the Southern Africa destinations that our travellers visit: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Botswana. Of the few cases reported in Europe and America, most have involved health and aid workers who after contracting the disease in West Africa were transported back home for treatment.
Map showing distances in miles from Ebola outbreak (source: Bloomberg.com
Clearing up Misconceptions About Ebola
For the average person Ebola is difficult to catch. It is not airborne, and the only way to contract the disease is through direct contact with the blood, saliva or other bodily fluids of an infected person.
This is why healthcare workers are most at risk, along with family members caring for their sick partners or children. And this is also why the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and WHO have stated that it’s highly unlikely that travellers, even those going to West Africa, could contract the disease. The likelihood of any traveller coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected and symptomatic person is slim to none.
And that’s the other thing: Ebola is only contagious once a person shows symptoms of the disease. For example, if a passenger on a flight full of people had Ebola but was not yet visibly ill, even the person sitting right next to them would not be at risk. It’s only once that patient becomes ill that they can transmit the virus. But, by this stage, it’s highly unlikely that they would be able to travel.
Kenyan health workers scanning travellers for Ebola by checking their temperatures. Kenya has had no recorded cases of Ebola to date. (Photo: The Guardian)
Is it Safe to Travel to Southern Africa?
Yes, it’s safe to travel to Southern Africa. Our travel destinations are thousands of miles from the Ebola outbreak and we do not route flights near the affected countries. To provide some perspective: Johannesburg in South Africa is further from the Ebola outbreak countries than London, Paris or Rio.
Then, as mentioned earlier, none of the Southern African countries that we include on our itineraries have had any cases of Ebola to date. What’s more, at Southern Africa Travel we have had NO cancellations from any of our clients that have booked with us over the last year, and continue to welcome international travellers from across the globe.
As a long-time operator in Southern Africa and with our guests’ safety in mind, we will continue to monitor our resources including the World Health Department, CDC, the US State Department and the various health departments in our destinations.
Should we receive information that impacts any of our destinations we will contact you and address the situation. But at this stage we can confidently say: book and travel to Southern Africa with complete peace of mind.
Should you have any further questions, simply contact us and we’ll be happy to speak with you.
Or check the latest updates on each contry in Africa: Ebola cases, travel restrictions, travel insurance - and more.