Ebola Update

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It’s been almost a year since the latest Ebola Virus Outbreak started. And it has been a tough year; for both the infected countries, as well as surrounding countries. In fact, the whole continent of Africa has suffered in some shape or form.

Even though the virus was isolated to the Western part of Africa, the fear of Ebola has had a knock on affect in industries further south – especially within the tourism sector. And the sad reality is that it is completely unnecessary. The virus is slowly becoming more contained, with new predictions by the John Drake University of Georgia indicating that the crisis could be at an end by June 2015. The reality, however, is that the damages of the virus have been so far reaching that the impact will most probably be felt over the next two years at least.

The fact is that 1 in 20 Africans are employed through tourism. So the decrease in tourism would have a direct impact on those working within the travel industry. Of course the indirect impact of decreased visitors would be the local economy – hotels buy food and supplies locally. The less they buy, the less income local businesses receive and so forth. It really does have an impact on the daily lives of Africans in so many ways!

So why is this the end-result? It is mainly due to a misconception of not only the virus, but of Africa as a continent. International travellers largely have a completely misconstrued idea about Africa. It is often seen as one big country rather than a continent. This means the concept of distance is not accurate. If you have a look at the map, Western Africa is extremely far from the Southern and Eastern parts of Africa. So the risk of coming into contact with an Ebola infected patient is very low.

And then there is the misconception regarding the way it is spread. Yes, it is highly contagious, but it is only through coming into physical contact with an infected person (once they show symptoms). This means that the countries further south/east are at no real risk unless an infected person travels to these countries. Strict border and airport controls have minimised this risk. Also, travel experts believe that this is not the most popular route for West Africans. And the proof of the low risk has been in the zero infections in both East Africa and Southern Africa.

The long and the short of it is, if you were planning on visiting Africa for an outreach in 2015, but Ebola has made you hesitant – be sure to check the facts, know about most recent updates and status reports and remember your visit could make a difference to the lives of many!

Map of Africa – Red areas still have reported infections.

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