Travelers are understandably concerned about the impact of West Africa's Ebola outbreak on their safari plans, but we have encountered significant misinformation in media coverage. Pierre's recent travels through southern Africa confirmed that the destination remains Ebola-free and perfectly safe for travel. Before media hype paralyzes you with fear, consider the following:
Ebola is not a disease of southern Africa - the affected part of Africa is 3,500 miles away, and the only way that it could reach the region will be if an infected individual from one of the three Ebola countries brings it in (the same way it reached the United States and Europe). There are no direct flights between Ebola countries and southern Africa, but this didn't stop governments in the region from taking additional steps to prevent Ebola from making an unwelcome appearance ...
Southern African countries were quick to respond to the initial outbreak and, beginning in August, instituted travel bans against anyone from the Ebola countries, as well as anyone who had visited those countries in the past six months.
As Pierre discovered during his safari, all travelers into the region are screened at the point of entry. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, every visitor has their temperature taken by a thermal camera, and anyone with a fever is subjected to further examination. Even when entering less developed countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, Pierre was questioned and examined by a state nurse.
In the unlikely event that an infected individual does slip through the barriers, southern African health authorities, with help from the World Health Organization (WHO), have readied aggressive containment protocols. Itís natural to assume, based on the disaster in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, that African countries are ill-equipped to deal with Ebola, but this overlooks the stark divergence in health systems across the continent. Senegal, with help from the WHO, was able to contain and eradicate Ebola in just 43 days, and even Nigeria (with 19 cases) took just three months to stamp out the disease. If anything, healthcare systems in southern Africa are even more advanced and better prepared to deal with any unlikely cases.
Nobody ever caught Ebola on an airplane. The virus is not spread by aerosol, it requires direct contact with body fluids (or injection by an infected needle); it is also only transmitted during the active phase of the disease, when the infected individual is exhibiting symptoms. In almost all cases, those contracting Ebola are healthcare workers and/or family members who are exposed to copious amounts of body fluids while caring for infected patients or relatives. The risk of contracting Ebola while flying to/from/between destinations in southern Africa is infinitesimally small.
Notwithstanding the incredibly low risk of travel to southern Africa, our partners in the region understand that travelers are concerned, and most have agreed to allow penalty-free postponement of travel should there be an outbreak that coincides with travel dates. If safari is on your to-do (or to-repeat) list, 2015 is a great year to turn dreams into reality!
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