Q – We have been debating cancelling our planned trip to South Africa next August. We read the comments from the fellow whose wife is spooked – you advised them to cancel their trip. But I am sure many of your followers would like a simple, up-to-date summary of where the Ebola problem stands in terms of future travel to Africa. We are from Manhattan and we don’t scare easily. And my wife is even more anxious to go than I am.
A – We are not going to give you the same advise we offered to the gentleman whose wife had real concerns about their trip. We think the following summary from Abercrombie & Kent summarizes the situation quite well:
- Africa is a vast continent. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is thousands of miles from safari destinations in East and Southern Africa and there are no direct links by land.
- Commercial flights between West Africa and East Africa, and West Africa and South Africa have been suspended.
- Major European carriers – including British Airways and Air France — have suspended flights to West Africa so their planes are not picking up travelers from the region.
- East African and Southern African countries have introduced restrictions on entry for those who have passed through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
- There have been no cases of Ebola in East or Southern Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
- Senegal and Nigeria have been declared by World Health Organization as free of Ebola virus transmission. Both countries had victims in the current outbreak of Ebola, but vigorous quarantine and contact tracing proved successful in halting the spread of the disease.
- Dakar, Senegal, is closer to New York (3,818 miles) than it is to Nairobi (3,865 miles) and Cape Town (4,100 miles).
- It’s important to keep in mind that Ebola is not transmitted through casual contact, but by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
Every situation, every traveler, is unique. The ground operators in Africa will, of course, try to put the best face on it. But the facts speak for themselves. How interesting that Nigeria has eradicated the disease, but we’ve had two cases in the United States. Our problem is that many low-income individuals use local clinics or small rural hospitals in the United States. They are less well-trained in the handling of a serious epidemic than big city hospital centers with close ties to the CDC. People feel they want to run away from “Ebola” to be safe. The fact is that the United States does not qualify for the list of the world’s safest places – not even close. Other than “travel paranoia”, a disease you have not yet caught, we can;’t come up with a single good reason to cancel your upcoming trip.