Media reports on Ebola have been sending shivers down our spines for the past few weeks (especially in the past few days with the news out of Dallas). While the epidemic is focused in West Africa, travelers are becoming increasingly wary of going to Africa as a whole.
While fear is a perfectly understandable reaction, we would like to take this opportunity share a few pieces of information to hopefully help clarify what is going on and give safari-goers the information they need to understand how incredibly low the risk is of contracting the disease in East or Southern Africa.
The Basics: How Would You Contract Ebola?
Here's a short, informative video by The Daily Share, which we encourage you to share with your friends and family.
In short, unless you come into direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or body, the risks are really, really low. This is why healthcare workers are the most vulnerable and have been disproportionately affected in the West Africa outbreak.
Along these lines, we really liked the NPR blog post by Michaeleen Doucleff called "No Seriously, How Contagious is Ebola?"
What About East and Southern Africa as a Destination?
Well, that's precisely it: The CDC has only issued a warning against non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone. The countries in East and Southern Africa where the majority of safaris occur: Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc. are not on this list and Ebola is not present in these countries.
In addition, it is essential to keep in mind just how big the continent is. Take a look at the map below; it shows where the outbreak is happening now: very localized.
The outbreak in West Africa is thousands of miles from both East and Southern Africa.
To give you an even better idea of scale, take a look at this map: The U.S. is a big country, but Africa is a massive continent!
To put it in perspective, East and Southern Africa are farther away from the countries suffering from this Ebola outbreak than Alaska is from Houston. Cape Town is closer to Antarctica than to West Africa! Makes you think, doesn't it?
Another way to think about it is this: Would you travel to Moscow if there was Ebola in Portugal? If the answer is yes, then get on a plane and go to South Africa! Johannesburg is another 900 miles farther from Liberia than Portugal is from Moscow!
Africa really is huge.
Again, I recommend a blog post by NPR's Anders Kelto,"You Won't Catch Ebola from a Giraffe in Tanzania" which does a good job of explaining the risks and the distances. The one quotation that struck me the most was: "geographically speaking, canceling a trip to Kenya is like canceling a trip to Disney World because of an Ebola outbreak in Alaska."
What Is Being Done in Safari Destinations?
The Ministries of Health of Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa and Zambia have issued travel-entry restrictions on anyone who has recently spent time in one of the countries affected by the outbreak -- whether visitors or returning residents.
In addition, it is important to note that Liberia and Sierra Leone, two of the worst-hit countries, have some of the worst health infrastructure on the continent, and this has contributed to the intensity of the problem. In contrast, Nigeria recently declared its outbreak contained because of a massive and well-organized response that included knocking on more than 18,000 doors. As in Nigeria, countries like South Africa, Botswana and Kenya have comparatively strong healthcare systems and a greater capacity to respond to any threat of Ebloa than Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea.
So, in the End, What's Our Advice for Not Catching Ebola?
Don't touch an infected person or a dead body. This is no joke. But then again, you're not going to West Africa! So as Anders Kelto put it, you won't catch Ebola from a giraffe in Tanzania.
Our best advice is to stay in touch with us, we are keeping ourselves up to date on every development and are in close communication with our partners on the ground in Africa. Your safety is foremost in our minds and we are not going to put you at risk.
We have clients returning from safari every day who had an amazing time, and everyone in the company is still traveling to Africa without any hesitation. We have staff going to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Zimbabwe between now and Christmas. Check out Pearl, who was in Kenya (at Encounter Mara) at the end of October and had a blast!
So head out on safari, enjoy your time out, and indulge in the beauty of East and Southern Africa.
Wouldn't it be a shame to miss out on this?
We will keep updating this space and our social media with the latest news and always feel free to give us a call (212-226-7331) or send us an emai ([email protected]) if you have any questions or concerns.
Want to read more? We recommend these articles
It’s Columbus Day. Let’s talk about geography (and Ebola) - The Washington Post
Nigeria’s Actions Seem to Contain Ebola Outbreak - The New York Times