According to recent news reports and concerned organizations, ebola is now a public health emergency. Sometimes called ebola virus disease (EVD) or ebola hemmorhagic fever (HF), it is a serious disease that is often fatal. The virus is transmitted through bodily fluids and touching.
Touching an infected corpse during their funeral (a custom in some cultures)
Touching, without protection, a patient with the disease
The current outbreak is occurring in a few West Africa nations right now (Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone) but the movement of infected persons means it may spread further.
With no proven vaccine or cure for this disease it is scary to think of travelling anywhere near this region. Africa is a huge continent with an enormous variety of terrain and culture to experience but your trip of a lifetime here may end your life. Here are some tips to help protect yourself from the likelihood of contracting this disease or others on your travels.
- Do your research
Check appropriate websites for risks and warnings in the area in which you will be travelling. Learn about the diseases that reside there, modes of transmission and preventative measures for them.
- Get prepared
Visit a travel health clinic for advice, vaccinations and pertinent medications.
- Avoid exchange of bodily fluids
Whether it’s the locals or fellow travellers avoid exchange of bodily secretions and blood. Find other ways to connect with people.
- Don’t pet stray animals.
Not all countries have the same vaccination requirements for animals as Canada does. That cute little dog in the village or colourful cat in the temple may carry rabies or some other disease. Non-human primates (e.g. monkeys) and fruit bats are thought to be hosts of the ebola virus.
- Mind what you eat.
Some people delight in eating creatures and critters they wouldn’t normally eat at home. But beware! Consuming that monkey brain pudding or snake blood cocktail may have grave consequences. Animals carry some diseases that may be transmitted to humans.
- Signs and symptoms.
Be aware of the signs/symptoms that may be indicative of a tropical disease. There is often an incubation period before the disease expresses itself weeks or months later. That cold, flu or fever you get may be a sign that you have contracted an unwanted souvenir from your travels.
If you travel once a year, try to schedule your annual physical with your doctor post-return. This way you can be checked out for any abnormalities in your immune system – also indicative that you may have contracted an illness. If you suspect that you might be infected, consult with a qualified doctor or travel health clinic for further advice.
- Quarantine yourself
Your clothing and luggage may be an unwitting stowaway place for insect critters or dirt. Clean everything! Before traipsing through your home with your luggage, leave it at the front door and thoroughly wipe down inside and out (wheels, handles and all) using soap, water and tea tree oil. Disinfectant wipes are also a great option for this. Keep dirty clothes in a separate bag inside your luggage. When it is time to do laundry, dump the contents directly into the washing machine. Throw in the clean clothes too and wash it all. A drop of lemongrass, lavender and tea tree essential oils in the wash is a fragrant way to enhance the cleaning process. They all have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Typical symptoms of ebola:
fever*; headache; joint and muscle aches; weakness; diarrhea; vomiting; stomach pain; lack of appetite; internal and external bleeding*
*the popular ‘hallmark’ that distinguish this disease
While there may be no cure for certain diseases that can be contracted through travel, an ounce of prevention still goes a long way.
CDC (Centre for Diseases Control)- Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
WHO (World Health Organization)- Regional Office for Africa: Ebola
BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation)- WHO: Ebola ‘an international emergency’