There is a good reason to be scared of the Ebola virus, and travel. The 2014 epidemic is considered to be the largest in history with several West African countries being affected by it and with the threat that it can even spread to other countries through travel. One case was already reported in the U.S. This was confirmed by CDC.
Should this news stall you from going anywhere there is a reported case?
It is indeed welcome news to learn that “Getting Ebola while you travel is unlikely, experts say.” The article was written by Meredith Engel and posted in New York Daily News – Living Section. Engel reported that their sources said, “The risk of exposure through air travel is low” and that the traveler has to have the symptoms to transmit the dreaded virus.
“There’s not anything that is gonna come close to being adequate to protect you from being on a plane with someone who has the virus,” Captain Tom Bunn, a former airline pilot with 30 years of experience who now counsels people afraid of flying, told the Daily News. “(But) the issue is, in order to get the virus you’ve got to be exposed to bodily fluids.”
So yes, it could very well be that your neighbor is carrying the bug. But unless he’s already showing symptoms, you can’t catch it — and airlines can’t do anything about it.
“Airports can’t possibly control exposure to someone who has this,” Bunn continued. “If someone is at the airport obviously sick, then yeah, they will pull that person aside. They’re not gonna let someone on the plane who is very clearly sick. But it’s gotta be very clear.”
Bunn also cited other reasons why getting the bug is nil. For instance, as far as American passengers are concerned, the number of travelers coming from Ebola-infected region is quite small. “… about one hundredth of one percent, and only a small percentage of travelers from these countries arrive on direct flights…” He added, “the risk of exposure through air travel is low. Common-sense hygiene measures, like hand-washing is always sensible when traveling anyway.”
Add to this the effort exerted by the Federal Aviation Administration, CDC’s screening measures before boarding and upon arrival, posting Ebola-specific travel messages, and having quarantine facilities in 20 U.S. entry points, and the risk of spread is further reduced.
Sean Kaufman, president of Behavioral-based Improvement Solutions, said that vigilance and strategies are important, but “behavior is what bridges a plan and an outcome.” The most important thing is for travellers to come forward when they can feel a fever is about to set in. It is equally important to get rid of the “Ebola stigma” that makes people apprehensive about coming forward to declare they may have the virus. One example he cited is the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak in China. People were taking ibuprofen to pass the airport screenings for fever because they were stigmatized.
There are other ways of preventing the spread of Ebola. Aside from the denying travelers with obvious symptoms of the infection, the cabin crew must stay vigilant if symptoms developed during a long-haul flight. They must separate the suspected traveller, treat all bodily fluids with caution, and the pilot must report onboard deaths or illness to CDC prior to landing.
With over 4,000 deaths (WHO) as of the last count, it is understandable why travelling can scare you off. If you can’t avoid travelling in the coming days, try not to panic. Remember that these deaths mainly happened in West Africa – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. There are enhanced screening measures being implemented in major points of entry in the U.S. and other airports around the world. Remember too that you need to be exposed to body fluids of an infected person showing the symptoms to get the virus.
Don’t stress yourself; that can waken your immune system. You need a robust one if you want to be in your best form to fight, not only Ebola, but many other pathogens that can wreak havoc to your health.