In times of panic – and nobody’s denying that the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa is anything but panic-inducing – people tend to, well, panic. We’ve been receiving lots of anxious calls from people who’ve booked safaris wondering whether they should cancel their trips, due to the outbreak.
Here we provide a simple overview of Ebola, starting with the main question on everybody's mind:
Should I Cancel My Safari?
In short, with the situation as it stands today – no. There is currently no reason to cancel your trip.
The main reason being that the Ebola outbreak is in West Africa. Most safari travel incorporates countries in eastern and southern African countries i.e. a long, long way away from the outbreak. If you were planning non-essential travel to West Africa, that’d be a different story, and you may need to carefully consider options.
To put it in perspective, geographically: The distance from Nigeria (the eastern-most country with reported Ebola cases) to Uganda (the western-most country to which most safari trips go) is 2752 km (1710 miles). In US terms, that’s further than New York to Dallas. The distance from Nigeria to South Africa? A whopping 4 700 km (2 900 miles). It’s a long way away.
UPDATE: Nigeria was declared free of Ebola in mid-October 2014
Bottom Line: The current outbreak is in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Africa is a very big continent. Most safaris go NOWHERE NEAR these countries. If you're unsure, check out our follow-up post and map here.
What Is Ebola?
Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a severe and often fatal disease which is thought to have originated in the DRC. The first case was transmitted by primate-human contact. There have been sporadic outbreaks since 1976. These have occurred in the DRC, Gabon, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Uganda (last case reported in 2008) and the Republic of Congo (last case reported in 2009). The current outbreak is the worst recorded.
How Do You Get Ebola?
Ebola, unlike colds and flu, is NOT spread by air or casual contact. This means that the risk of contracting the disease while travelling is low. See the WHO (World Health Organisation) statement here.
The disease is spread via body fluids like blood, urine, faeces and vomit. It can also be transmitted via medical equipment such as hypodermic needles etc.
This is why the outbreak has spread - family members and health care workers handling patients with Ebola need to wear protective clothing to prevent transmission.
These may appear two to 21 days after exposure (Ave: eight – 10 days)
- Very high fever
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Diarrhoea, stomach pain, vomiting, lack of appetite
- Some people may get: rash, red eyes, cough or hiccups, sore throat, breathing or swallowing difficulties, chest pains, unexplained external or internal bleeding
Some Important Ebola Facts
- The current outbreak has spread to four West African countries, beginning in Guinea in December 2013 and subsequently spreading to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria
- There has never been an Ebola outbreak in any of the Eastern or Southern African countries through which most safaris travel
- Two cases of Ebola occurred in South Africa in 1996. The source patient came in from Gabon, with the disease, and it was transmitted to the nurse treating him. The disease was then contained, and nobody further contracted it
- South African health and travel authorities are on high alert and strict measures have been put in place to ensure that, if any person with Ebola enters the country, all necessary precautions are taken to ensure that the disease is not spread