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Issue 9
Africa Travel> Issue 9
UPDATED: November 4, 2014
Ebola Poses Little Threat to African Tourism
By Jo Kromberg

I am a citizen of a country that once upon a time had the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the entire world. It is also a country that brought the world Nelson Mandela, Table Mountain, the 2010 Soccer World Cup and some of the most wonderful wildlife anywhere on earth.

Within only one year (from 2011 to 2012), Chinese tourism to South Africa grew by an incredible 56 percent and no thought was given to any possible threat of becoming infected by HIV or AIDS. And rightly so. Unfortunately, due to misguided global mass media hysteria, tourism to Africa is arguably facing its biggest threat ever – the Ebola virus. There is no doubt that Ebola is a tragic disease that has claimed many lives. That is not however the issue for the purposes of this article.

The real issue here is the potential threat to tourism in Africa. Since the World Health Organization declared Nigeria officially Ebola-free on the October 20, 2014, after 42 days (or two incubation periods) without any new confirmed cases of the deadly virus, there are only THREE countries in Africa where the disease is acknowledged as serious - Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. And these are not countries that the majority of tourists to Africa are likely to visit. They are all located in a small corner of West Africa and they all border each other (see map http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/distribution-map.html). There are 53 countries in Africa (including the island nations) and the size of the continent is 30,221,532 km². In other words, it is enormous.

The most popular tourism destinations in Africa are generally the southern African countries or SADC region. SADC Member States are – Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. And to put the whole thing into perspective, here is why you don't have to be afraid of Ebola - the distance between Zambia and the closest affected area, being Liberia, is 4654 km or more than FIVE HOURS flying time. That is more than the distance between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia! Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, MD, a medical consultant to the Centre for Disease Control in America, says that they have no travel concerns for East and South Africa. "There is a lack of basic knowledge about geography in Africa," she said. "It's like saying that you don't want to go to the U.S. because there is an illness in one state." Not only is the distance massive between popular tourism destination countries and affected countries, but most southern African countries including Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Zambia have measures in place to prevent the Ebola virus from entering their countries in any way shape or form. According to a communiqué released by SADC recently, member states should introduce stringent measures for travelers.

"People with a history of coming into close conduct with Ebola-infected people, dead bodies and animals should be quarantined in a country for a period of not less than 21 days," read part of the communiqué. It further stated that people who arrived from an affected country as defined and advised by the World Health Organization (WHO), should be subjected to screening and followed up for a period of 21 days. In Zambia, health officers have been stationed to work closely with people in transit in and out of borders to make sure that they are screened for the Ebola virus. The WHO has stated that Ebola only spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. Ebola can only be transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person and NOT via air or water. The actual cause of Ebola is thought to be ingesting fruit bats. So unless you plan to eat a fruit bat in the rural areas of one of three small West African countries while exchanging bodily fluids with an infected person, your risk of becoming infected with Ebola is minimal.

Additional sources and information:




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