The death toll from the West Africa Ebola outbreak topped over 3000, but thankfully now the crisis is over. But if it ever raises its ugly head again should you be worried if you're going on holiday to London, Paris or Rome? The experts argue that because of quarantine laws there would not be that many infected people at large in the world, so you are still far more likely to be hit by a bus in Piazza Navona than get Ebola.
This is different to the outbreaks of Swine Flu or Bird Flu. They are contagious and easily spread. Ebola is less infectious than the Common Cold and the circumstances where you get infected require very close contact with a sufferer.
An expert in understanding how diseases are spread, Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says you are unlikely to catch Ebola from a passenger in the early stages of the disease. The virus is least contagious before the patient has started vomiting and bleeding. "I wouldn't want to be a passenger next to a guy with Ebola," he told the BBC. "But if they are just sitting there with a fever, I can't imagine the situation being high-risk."
The CDC maintains Ebola is NOT ‘airborne'; a direct transmission of bodily fluids is required. Many in the medical profession are sceptical of this. They point to several dozen health workers who contracted Ebola while working with victims in West Africa, despite being suited-up in gowns, gloves and face masks. They theorise that tiny droplets are lodging themselves in the nostrils and eyes of those workers. If this is true, it STILL requires the improperly-protected person to be in very close contact with a victim expelling infectious fluids. So, while it is conceivable that someone showing symptoms (and are therefore infectious) could transfer the virus to another aircraft passenger by sneezing directly onto them, it's not very likely.
Stay away from any affected zone, but be sensible about it. Keep some perspective. For example, there were (at the time of writing) 15 cases of Ebola in Nigeria – out of a population of 168 million.
South African tourism authorities are reporting a massive downturn in bookings from visitors worried about the virus. South Africa is a long way from West Africa.
Symptoms include a high fever (over 101.5F/38.6C), severe headache and muscle pain which escalates to stomach pain, and unexplained haemorrhaging like bleeding and bruising. They may appear within 2 to 21 days of infection, but the average is 8 to 10 days after exposure. The virus is transmitted through blood or body fluids including saliva, infected animals, and medical waste like needles.
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