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Ebola in East Africa

We understand that if you are considering a trek or safari in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, or Rwanda, Ebola is probably weighing heavy on your mind.  It is also heavy on our mind as we live with our families in Tanzania and we often travel throughout East Africa to manage our safari and trekking operations.  There is nothing more frightening than to imagine our families, colleagues, and friends faced with an Ebola outbreak similar to those in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

However, we believe that much of the hype around the Ebola outbreak is fed by personal agendas and not by facts.   Unfortunately, it is not easy to get through those personal agendas and find the facts that will allow you to make an educated decision about the safety and security of you and your family while you are traveling to a foreign country.

We have been compiling massive amounts of facts around Ebola, as well as any other potential risk in East Africa, so that we can also make educated decisions about:

•   Living with our families and children in East Africa.
•   Ensuring that our clients, our employees and their families are not put in high risk situations.
•   Investing and Developing Tourism in East Africa.

We can provide you with thousands of reasons that support our overall conclusion that “East Africa is a safe place to live and to visit.”  However, we rather help you find the facts, so that you can make your own educated decision.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is an RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus that targets the cells lining the inside of blood vessels (endothelial cells) and liver cells.  The complex virus then infects dendritic cells creating a protein that allows the virus to go undetected by our immune systems.  Once undetected the virus begins multiplying uncontrollably causing severe damage to the cells lining the blood vessels.  Eventually, cells begin exploding and dying which then triggers a massive SOS response from our immune systems that eventually do too much collateral damage to the body, usually resulting in damage to the already weakened blood vessels, leading to severe hemorrhaging and loss of blood pressure, and often death.

How is Ebola transmitted?

Bats are believed to be the primary hosts of the Ebola Virus.  Transmission from the host can either happen when humans are in contact with bodily fluids of the infected host, often in areas where people eat bats, or through contact with other primates that have contracted the disease (usually deceased gorillas, chimps, or other primates).

Human-to-human transmission occurs only via direct contact with blood or body fluid from an infected person (most often via traditional embalming of an infected corpse), or by contact with objects contaminated by the virus, particularly needles and syringes.  Other body fluids that may transmit Ebola viruses include saliva, mucus, vomit, feces, sweat, tears, breast milk, urine, and semen.  The virus must have an entry point in order to infect a human, which can be via the nose, mouth, eyes, or open wounds, cuts and abrasions.

The incubation period, that is the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms.  The symptoms limit a person's ability to spread the disease as they are often too sick to travel during the infectious stages of the progression of the disease.

Because dead bodies are still infectious, traditional burial rituals are believe to be the main cause of the 2014 outbreak. Nearly two thirds of the cases of Ebola infections in Guinea are believed to have been contracted via unprotected contact with infected corpses during certain burial rituals.

Is this the first Ebola outbreak?

Ebola was first identified in 1976, during an outbreak in the DRC.  Since then, there have been 24 recorded outbreaks, primarily in Central Africa.  Most outbreaks saw less than 150 people infected and until 2014 the largest outbreak infected more than 28,000 people.  Prior to 2014 there were no recorded outbreaks in West Africa, with the exception of a single person infected by a rare strain of Ebola in Ivory Cost in 1994.

Is this a new strain of Ebola that is more dangerous?

The current outbreak is caused by the Ebola virus (EBOV, formerly Zaire Ebola virus), which is the most common of the four variations of the viruses that cause Ebola.  The Ebola virus mutates at an extremely slow rate and the current virus is not believed to be a mutation of the virus during previous outbreaks.

There is no evidence that suggests that the virus has become more infectious or more deadly than during past outbreaks.  Rather it is believed that cultural behaviors and traditions that are specific to the region have been the main cause of the size of the outbreak.

Is there a risk of catching Ebola if I visit Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, or Uganda?

The current Ebola outbreak started in the West African country of Guinea then spreading across land borders to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia.  There have also been related Ebola cases in Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the United States, that are all reported to have been contained.

East Africa is thousands of miles from the current outbreak.  With limited infrastructure between the two regions, East Africa has been classified as very low risk of having an Ebola case or outbreak.  To further mitigate any risk, border entry points and international airports have started preventative screening of all arriving passengers.

What can I do to reduce my risk of contracting Ebola?

There are standard behaviors that should be taken to prevent the spread of any disease while traveling, or even at home:

•   Wash your hands regularly.
•   Avoid contact with blood and any body fluids of other people.
•   Do not approach a dead animal or human corpse.
•   Do not come in close contact with wild animals, particularly bats and any non-human primates.  
•   Do not eat or handle bush meat of any kind.
•   Ensure that food is well cooked.
•   Drink bottled water.
•   Seek medical attention if you develop a high fever or experience any severe medical condition,   such as diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding, or other abnormal conditions.

What is Marburg Virus?

Marburg Virus is closely related to the Ebola virus.  The Virus was first identified in Germany in 1967.  It is much less common than Ebola, but it acts very similar to Ebola with similar transmission, symptoms, and low survival rates.  Outbreaks have been most common in mining communities in Uganda.  Generally, outbreaks have been isolated and controlled quickly, infecting less than 20 people during an outbreak, with the exception of a large outbreak in DRC infecting 154 people over a 2 year period starting in 1998 and an outbreak in Angola infecting 227 people over a 2 year period in 2004.

What happens if I have paid for my trip and a case or outbreak of Ebola is reported in a country I am scheduled to visiting?

It is highly recommended to take out a travel insurance policy anytime you are booking a trip.  Most policies will cover travel cancelation when your home country issues a travel advisory or warning to a particular region or country, but be sure to read the fine print.  Currently most countries have issued a travel warning to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.  However, few countries have issued travel warnings to other countries that have had isolated cases.

E-Trip Africa is dedicated to ensuring that our clients have a safe journey.  We strive to find a fair solution in the event of an Ebola outbreak.  Our team is dedicated to working with the various lodges and camps to find the best outcome in the event that you must cancel your trip due to an Ebola outbreak.  For more details please refer to our terms and conditions or contact our office at +1 (302) 722-6226 or by email at operations@etripafrica.com.

Where can I find additional facts about Ebola?

The internet is a perfect source, but you will need to find the right sources.  Above on the right of the page you will find links to several reputable sources for more facts on Ebola.  You may also contact our team at any time.