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The truth about Ebola and why it shouldn’t affect your travel plans

There’s been a lot of coverage in the media lately of the latest outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has thus far killed nearly 900 people in West Africa.


Indeed, the virus, whose symptoms include high fever, muscle pain and weakness, vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding, is a dangerous, and even fatal, disease. But its threat needs to be put into perspective.


Ebola is not an airborne disease; in fact, it can’t even be contracted through food, water, or even by touching money.


So, the chances of Ebola being spread via passengers on planes is very unlikely, and could only happen if an infected person is allowed to board and then swap spit with or bleeds on fellow passengers.  


The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has issued a proportionate response to recent events, saying the Ebola virus continued to be of “significant concern” in West Africa, and advises Aussies to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There isn’t a lot of traffic headed that way from Australia anyway.


The truth is, is that there a lot of other contagious diseases we should be more concerned about over the coming months: such as the common cold, reports The Guardian.


According to the paper, the regular garden variety influenza will by this time next year leave between 250,000 and 500,000 people dead, including thousands in the US and Britain. And, just like the Ebola virus, there is no reliable cure. There isn’t even an available vaccine offering effective protection longer than a few months.


In the time that the Ebola outbreak began in February, 300,000 people have died from malaria, while tuberculosis has likely claimed over 600,000 lives, The Guardian reported. Even Lassa fever, which shares many of the terrifying symptoms of Ebola and regularly finds its way to the US, kills more than Ebola.


The most deadly disease to spike in recent years was the flu pandemic (H1N1) that began in 2008, which according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was responsible for the loss of more than 284,000 lives.


Yes, the Ebola epidemic is the worst outbreak ever of the disease – but don’t be expecting some sort of doomsday scenario, like you’d see in the film “Contagion”.


Are you at concerned about Ebola? What, if any, illnesses would you be more worried about during your travels?


Image AP


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Written by: Mark Harada
Published: 6 August 2014

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