Ebola news and Information

Todd Curtis comments on calls for a travel ban (23 October 2014)

Latest news
October 21th: Department of Homeland Security requires all travelers from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone to enter the US through one of five airports with an Ebola passenger screening program.

October 20th: Added additional content on travel bans, including an overview of what forms a ban may take, and reasons why flight bans to protect the US from Ebola may not work.

October 16th: CDC, began to actively seek out passengers who may have been on either of two Frontier Airlines flights, one on October 10, and a second on October 13th, taken by a nurse who had been exposed to the Ebola virus, and who was exhibiting symptoms on at least one of those flights. The airline is also contacting passengers on five October 14th flights that used the plane from the October 13th flight.

October 8th: CDC, along with US Customs and Border Protection, announced a series of new screening measures at selected US airports. These measures, which will focus on travelers arriving from the west African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the three nations most affected by the latest Ebola outbreak.

These new screening measures, which will be put into place starting October 11th, will be at five airports: New York's JFK and Newark airports, Washington Dulles, Chicago O'Hare, and Atlanta.

Links to recent AirSafe.com articles and interviews:

Below are some of the basic facts about Ebola and its effects. At the bottom of the page are links to a variety of resources aimed at helping air travelers, airline crews, and airport personnel reduce or eliminate risks associated with Ebola.

What is Ebola?
Ebola, also known as Ebola virus disease (EVD) or Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF), is a severe, often fatal illness in humans, with a fatality rate of greater than 50%. It is caused by a virus that is commonly spread through close contact with an infected person.

How can a person get Ebola?
A person can become infected with the Ebola virus from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood or bodily fluids of infected people, or from contact with objects or environments contaminated with such fluids.

While one study published in 2012 on Nature.com showed that the strain of the Ebola virus behind the current outbreak, Zaire ebolavirus, may be transmitted between animals that were not in contact with one another, it is not clear if the Ebola virus could be transmitted between humans in a similar way.

What are the effects of Ebola?
The effects of an infection are not immediate, with symptoms showing up between two and 21 days after infection. A person who falls ill may experience a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

Is there a vaccine or treatment for Ebola?
There are currently no approved vaccines available for Ebola. While symptoms such as dehydration can be treated, there is no proven treatment for the underlying viral infection.

Can you get Ebola from contaminated food or water?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), no. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) implies that the answer is yes. WHO states that infection can also occur if broken skin or mucus membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patient's infectious fluids. Conceivably, those environments could include food items.

Even CDC implies that food items could transmit the Ebola virus when it stated that the virus could be transmitted by exposure to objects that have been contaminated with infected secretions.

What risks do airline passengers face?
Although there are no reports of airline passengers or airline staff being infected on an airliner, there is the possibility that someone can be infected with Ebola while in an airplane or while at an airport.

While medical authorities assert that transmission from casual contact is possible only when someone is showing symptoms, early symptoms are not dramatically different from that of a more common cold or flu. For that reason, air travelers, particularly those traveling to or from a region with an active Ebola outbreak, should exercise caution if they are close to someone who appears to be ill.

What is being done to reduce Ebola risks?
In areas where there has been an outbreak of Ebola, airlines and governments have done the following to reduce risks to air travelers and airline professionals:

  • Provide updated information about Ebola risks (see links below)
  • Limiting flights to or from areas experiencing Ebola outbreaks
  • Screening passengers prior to boarding

What can passengers do?
The two most important things that you can do is to avoid travel to areas experiencing an Ebola outbreak, and to seek medical attention before traveling if you are experiencing Ebola-related symptoms.

If you already have a trip planned into an area with an active outbreak, you can delay or cancel the trip (check with your airline on their policies for areas of high risk).

If you are on a flight where another passenger is exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms, do your best to stay away from that passenger and inform your flight attendant about the situation. If you are unable to do this, avoid direct contact with that person, or with any object or surface touched by that person.

What if you think you have been exposed?
If you believe that you have been exposed to Ebola during trip, the CDC suggests that you contact your medical provider even if you do not have symptoms. Your provider should evaluate your exposure level and any symptoms you may have in order to determine what further actions,such as medical evaluation and testing for Ebola, are needed.

CDC advice for airline and airport crews
Interim guidance for airlines
Infection control for cabin crews
Advice for airline cleaning crews
Exit screening procedures
Protective equipment for airport screeners
Protective equipment for law enforcement
Evaluating returned passengers
Informational resources

Basic Ebola information
WHO Ebola fact sheet
CDC Ebola fact sheet
CDC Ebola overview
Ebola Q&A from the CDC
Distribution of cases since 1976 (CDC)
Details of the 2014 outbreak (CDC)
Wikipedia Ebola page
Ebola articles from Science magazine

Travel warnings and advisories
CDC travel health advice
US State Department travel warnings
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Canadian government travel advice
Australian government travel advice

Ebola basics from the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics

Ebola news and Information
http://airsafe.com/issues/medical/ebola.htm -- Revised 21 October 2014