Last updated: 01:09 PM ET, Wed April 09 2014

Travel Warning: 10 Things to Remember About Ebola

Destination & Tourism | David Cogswell | April 08, 2014

Travel Warning: 10 Things to Remember About Ebola

MAP: The red dots show where the currenct cases of ebola have appeared. (map courtesy iJET)

The West African countries of Guinea and Liberia have reported an outbreak of the deadly ebola virus. It’s the first time the virus has been seen in western Africa.

Ebola was first seen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976. It was named after the Ebola River in that region.

Ebola is known as one of the world’s most deadly diseases, causing hemorrhagic fever and killing up to 90 percent of the people infected. It spreads through blood and shuts down the immune system.

As of Tuesday afternoon, CNN reported that the outbreak had not spread beyond Guinea and Liberia. In Guinea 157 cases were reported with 101 deaths. In Liberia, 21 cases have been reported and 10 deaths.

From the tourism point of view, West Africa is an area still visited by few American tourists, and few tour operators offer programs to the region. One exception is G Adventures, which operates a cruise from Cape Town to Morocco, passing along the coasts of these countries. The company is now experiencing challenges from the border closings as a result of the outbreak of ebola.

“We have a full ship going up the coast from Cape Town to Morocco,” said Bruce Poon Tip, CEO of G Adventures. “But now we're dealing with all the border restrictions from countries that have been hit with the ebola virus, who are closing off borders between countries.”

Both Guinea and Liberia were on the G Adventures itinerary, but now the company is figuring out how to work around it.

“The World Health Organization is now doing a lot of work,” said Poon Tip. “These are destinations that are on our trip. Liberia has now closed its border, so we’re looking at how to handle that at the moment. Doctors Without Borders is playing a big part, because these areas are so remote and so removed. And they don’t have access to medical services so people become fearful of going there. We’re hoping it doesn’t spread. And we’re working with how we’re going to work our itinerary around it.”

Tips for Staying Safe

Ebola is so deadly as to cause panic by the mere mention of the word. But the more information known about it, the better for protecting oneself and for peace of mind. There are ways to protect against getting the disease.

Travel Pulse interviewed Katherine Harmon, the health intelligence director of iJET, a company that provides operational risk management solutions for multinational corporations and government organizations. Harmon provided Travel Pulse some guidelines for how to think about the disease and how to protect yourself.

1. So far no cases have been confirmed outside of Guinea and Liberia. There have been suspected cases in Sierra Leone, Mali and Ghana, but nothing has been confirmed.

2. There is a two- to 21-day incubation period, but most people who contract the disease will fall ill in about a week.

3. Patients who do contract the disease are not contagious until they are very sick.

4. It is not contagious through coughing or sneezing or any of the ways you would get a flu or common cold.

5. You cannot contract the disease from someone who has not yet exhibited any symptoms.

6. Contracting the disease requires direct close contact and contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, especially blood, and only when the patients are already very ill.

7. Though the words “highly contagious” are thrown around in connection with ebola, it is not a highly transmissible disease. “What we mean by that,” said Harmon, “is that it only takes a couple of virus particles to make someone sick with the disease, but it is very difficult to contract.”

8. According to Harmon, “For a common traveler going to these areas, it would be very unlikely for them to contract the disease unless they are a person who works directly with people who are ill or someone who participates in funerals who has close contact with family members who are infected.”

9. Another way of contracting the disease is through direct consumption of animals that are infected. The animals who carry the disease are fruit bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, apes and occasionally forest antelope. Because of that danger, the sale of those kinds of meat is banned in the countries affected.

10. Slaughtering practices are also being limited in the endangered areas because of exposure to the blood of those kinds of animals.

IJET will offer a free webinar on ebola and how to manage the risks of it on Thursday, April 10, at noon Eastern Time.. To register for the webinar, click here.

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