With the outbreak of Ebola it has become increasingly important for travelers and international workers to gain awareness of the significant facts concerning the disease so they can travel with less concern. During this time, we wish to extend our sympathy and support for the currently affected communities in West Africa. We intend to offer as much support and information as is necessary to encourage student safety, and also outline any necessary precautions as they arise, however, avoiding all travel within the continent of Africa seems premature at the current juncture.
Below is a breakdown of recent data and relevant information about preventing the contraction of Ebola and associated legitimate concerns. For more detailed descriptions of the history of Ebola, or the specific symptoms, please refer to the Center of Disease Control’s official website (cdc.gov) or the World Health Organization (who.int). AGA is continuing to monitor the state of affected areas and will make any critical updates to this blog.
AGA advises students who are planning to travel near affected areas in the next six months to stay aware of these trends, and to work with organizations that have strong monitoring protocols in place. Prevention is the best course of action but again, AGA believes curtailment of all travels to African seems at this point an unnecessary precaution.
HISTORY of the current outbreak:
The first case of the 2014 outbreak was documented in Liberia and the disease has since experienced its greatest impact in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Nigeria, Spain, and the United States have experienced localized transmission, and Senegal and Mali have experienced travel-associated cases of the disease. As of October 9th, 2014, an unrelated outbreak of Ebola has occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Diagnosis of Ebola is difficult as the symptoms are nonspecific to Ebola and often emulate those of malaria, typhoid fever, or even the flu. Laboratory tests can be used for early diagnosis beginning within a few days after symptoms begin to emerge to confirm infection.
Those who have the highest risk of contracting Ebola are healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends who have close contact with Ebola patients due to potential contact with the blood or body fluids of sick patients. Infected wildlife such as bats or other wild animals can transmit the disease to people, as well as contact with objects like clothes, bedding, needles, syringes/sharps or medical equipment that have been contaminated with the virus.
Basic interventions for treating Ebola include providing intravenous fluids and balancing electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, treating other infections if they occur. Experimental vaccines and treatments for Ebola are under development, but they have not yet been fully tested for safety nor effectiveness. Recovery from Ebola is most notably aided by high quality supportive care and the patient’s own immune response, which is why all Americans that have been infected have been evacuated to the US.
The World Health Organization is currently conducting risk assessments in neighboring countries to identify preparedness needs and response capacity. The results of these assessments will be made public soon, according to their official website. For current news and updates about the disease and responses to it please visit http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/, and for a complete factsheet please see: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs103/en/.
Additional Resources and Articles:
Advice for Colleges, Universities and Students About Ebola in West Africa – Center for Disease Control
You Won’t Catch Ebola from a Giraffe in Tanzania – National Public Radio
Ebola Outbreak: What Uganda Can Teach West Africa – BBC News
The Africa Without Ebola – The Washington Post