Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What You Need to Know About Travel and Ebola

Traveling can be scary—especially when there is a major health scare on everyone’s minds. The good news is that Ebola is difficult to catch, as The New York Times explains:

“Ebola spreads through direct contact with body fluids. If an infected person’s blood or vomit gets in another person’s eyes, nose or mouth, the virus may be transmitted. Although Ebola does not cause respiratory problems, a cough from a sick person could infect someone who has been sprayed with saliva. Because of that, being within three feet of a patient for a prolonged time without protective clothing is considered to be direct contact.

The virus can survive for several hours on surfaces, so any object contaminated with bodily fluids may spread the disease. According to the C.D.C., the virus can survive for a few hours on dry surfaces like doorknobs and countertops and can survive for several days in puddles or other collections of body fluid. Bleach solutions can kill it.

In the current outbreak, most new cases are occurring among people who have been taking care of sick relatives or who have prepared an infected body for burial. Health care workers are at high risk. Symptoms usually begin about eight to 10 days after exposure to the virus, but can appear as late as 21 days after exposure.”

Now that you know it’s not that easy to catch and you shouldn’t be paranoid when you travel, the five tips below should help you and everyone be prepared and minimize the risk and check the C.D.C.'s travel advisory and the Ebola Fact Sheet

Impact on International TravelConfirmed and suspected cases of EVD continue to be reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There have also been a number of cases in Nigeria and a single case in both Senegal and the United States of America.  Cases of Ebola have also been identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa.  In October, the first recorded case of EVD transmission outside Africa occurred in Spain.  This involved a nurse who had been treating an Ebola patient who had returned from West Africa. Travel restrictions have been imposed in a number of affected and neighbouring countries in West Africa and this will significantly impact departure options and freedom of movement.
Guinea has closed its borders with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Senegal. Health screening has been introduced at border crossings. Sierra Leone has closed land borders with Guinea and Liberia. Health screening has been introduced at border crossings. Liberia has closed the majority of its borders. Health screening has been introduced at the border crossings that remain open. Nigeria has introduced health screening measures for passengers arriving and departing at all airports in Nigeria. Senegal has closed the land border with Guinea. Sea and air borders are also closed to vessels and aircraft from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
5 ways to minimize your risk of catching Ebola while on the road:

  1. Use antibacterial wipes: When I travel, I’m almost borderline Howard-Hughes-insane about germs. I constantly wash my hands, use hand sanitizer, make a conscious effort not to stick my fingers in my mouth/eyes/nose, and wipe down plane seats and hotel rooms with antibacterial wipes. When I’ve been lazy, I’ve paid the price for it. Don’t make the same mistake.
  2. Don’t spread your germs: If you’re sick, don’t go out. No one wants to be around a sick person – especially during this Ebola outbreak. Did you see that yesterday an American Airlines flight made an emergency landing to offload a vomiting female passenger in Texas amid fears she has Ebola … despite not having been in Africa? So, do everyone a favor, including yourself, and STAY HOME! If you have to go to work or catch a flight, then wash your hands more than usual, use hand sanitizer and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  3. Wear a surgical mask: In Japan everyone wears a surgical mask when they’re sick. Why can’t we bring that tradition to America or, better yet, the rest of the world? Who cares if people think you look like a freak? As you can see from the photo above, I put on my mask recently not because I was sick but because the passenger next to me was and was coughing without covering his mouth. After I put on my mask and gave him my “crazy eyes” look, he got the hint. If you don’t want to look like a freak, get a Scough, which has a mask built in a scarf or just put a scarf around your mask or a get a designer mask.
  4. Travel insurance: Before you leave, check to see if your health insurance covers you during your travels (especially international). If not, buy travel insurance. It’s not expensive and provides great piece of mind. 
  5. Change your plane ticket: Unless you buy a refundable ticket (most people don’t, including me), it’s difficult to make changes to it without getting slapped with a fee (except with Southwest Airlines). I think airlines should make an exception for people who are sick because the metal tube just makes them sicker and spreads their germs to others. But for now they don’t, so we have to deal with it or figure out ways around it—and there are ways around it. Calling the airline won’t help (usually). The best way to change your ticket without a fee is to go to the airport and speak to an agent or their supervisor. I know it’s a pain but it often works. Just tell the agent you aren’t feeling well and would like to see if you can fly another time. More often than not they will help you do it.