Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa-The End of Tragedy

The risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during travel is low. Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not spread by breathing air and the airborne particles it contains from an infected person. People are only infectious after they have started to have symptoms, which include headache, fever, muscle pain, weakness, and sore throat. This is followed by rash, diarrhea, vomiting, and in some cases, bleeding.

Transmission requires direct contact with secretions, blood, organs, or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveler. If a person, including a traveler, may have been exposed to the Ebola virus, he should seek medical attention at the first sign of illness. Early treatment improves the chance of survival.

Established in August 2014, the Travel and Transport Task Force have called on international cooperation of governments and transport sector to look into the recommendation on general bans of travelers arriving from Ebola-affected countries by International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola, convened by World Health Organization.

The Task force further announced that such measures can have a detrimental impact on the number of health care workers volunteering to assist Ebola control or prevention efforts in the affected countries due to the creation of a false impression on control. Such measures may also adversely reduce essential trade, including supplies of food, fuel, and medical equipment to the affected countries, contributing to their humanitarian and economic hardship.

Current exit screening of all persons departing affected countries through international airports, seaports, and major land crossings is recommended by World Health Organization and can reduce the number of people with symptoms from traveling from the countries with high levels of Ebola transmission. While screening upon entry into non-affected countries may provide an opportunity to further increase public awareness about Ebola, such screening also can require significant resources including staff, facilities, and systems to care for ill travelers who might be suspected of having Ebola.

The best protective measures for non-affected countries are adequate levels of preparedness, including heightened surveillance to detect and diagnose cases early, well-prepared staff, and operational planning to ensure that suspect cases of Ebola are managed safely and in ways to minimize further spread. Communication campaigns should be conducted to inform travelers, airlines, shipping crews, staff working at points of entry, and health workers everywhere about the symptoms of Ebola virus disease and what to do if a person has symptoms. Data on the efficiency of exit screening should be made available.

The World Health organization Emergency Committee agreed that there should not be a general ban on participation of people from countries with the transmission of Ebola from attending international meetings and events. The decision of participation must be made on a case by case basis by the host country. This country may request additional health monitoring of participants.

Advice to travelers
People who have traveled to 1 of the 3 West African countries currently affected by Ebola virus disease of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone should take the following precautions for 21 days after returning:
• Stay within reach of a good quality health care facility
• Be aware of the symptoms of infection like intense weakness, diarrhea, sudden fever, vomiting, muscle pain, rash, headache, and sometimes bleeding
• Immediately report a fever of 38° C or higher to their local medical emergency service and mention their travel history.

Please Note That:
• Early treatment improves the chance of recovery.
• To catch Ebola requires direct contact with the body fluid of an Ebola-infected person.
• Asymptomatic individuals are not infectious, even if they are incubating the disease.