Following extensive news coverage in the international media about the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, I would like to share a few facts with you so that you are well informed on this weighty matter. The situation is as follows:
1. The current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and involves Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
2. Kenya is not affected by the outbreak of Ebola as there has not been any recorded case of Ebola in this country.
3. The affected countries are on the extreme West of the African Continent, thousands of kilometers from Kenya and indeed Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are closer to Madrid, Paris and London than they are to Kenya in East Africa.
4. It is considered very unlikely that travellers from the affected countries would come to Kenya overland by road as it could entail a journey of more than 2 weeks and would require driving through places like the Central African Republic, DRC or Southern Sudan where there are serious security issues and disruptions to road travel. Any infected person setting off from West Africa to undertake such a journey by road to Kenya would be very likely to have developed obvious symptoms before arriving at the Kenya border post where screening is now in place to identify and isolate anyone considered to be at risk of carrying the disease. So the possibility of Ebola spreading overland from West Africa to Kenya is considered extremely unlikely.
5. Travellers from West Africa normally come to Kenya by air just as they can travel at present on flights from West Africa to Europe, America, theMiddle East, Asia and Australia. The international airlines have implemented screening for passengers boarding flights in West Africa and the Kenyan Government and Ministry of Health, working in close co-operation with the Kenya Airports Authority, have now set up arrangements at the international airport in Nairobi to screen all passengers arriving on flights from West Africa to prevent any infected person from entering the country.
6. According to the medical authorities, the overall risk of a traveller contracting Ebola is very low as it requires direct contact with the bodily fluids or secretions (e.g. blood, saliva, urine, etc) of an infected person or dead body. Ebola is not an airborne virus like influenza or tuberculosis, it is not spread by coughing or sneezing and is not in water or food. Simply washing hands with soap and water can destroy the virus. Infected persons become contagious only after the onset of symptoms. As symptoms worsen, the ability to transmit the virus increases. As a result, patients are usually most likely to infect others at a severe stage of the disease, when they are visibly, and physically, too ill to travel and at that stage they will probably not be physically able to board an aircraft. WHO is therefore advising against imposing travel bans to and from affected countries.The Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response has stated that because the risk of Ebola transmission on aircraft is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola. The highest Ebola virus level is found in a dead body, according to WHO, so the highest risk of Ebola transmission is in preparing a body for burial. The persons most at risk are those in very close direct contact with infected patients or corpses such as doctors, nurses or mortuary attendants.
7. The World Health Organisation (WHO), has clarified that Kenya’s Ebola risk profile has not changed, as reported by the media. In a statement, the WHO has commended Kenya for its efforts in putting in place measures to prevent possible importation and to implement early detection and containment if a case is detected in an arriving traveller.
8. Staying in international hotels in Nairobi and at the coastal beach resorts or going on safari to the wildlife parks in Kenya at the present time is considered to entail no risk of contracting Ebola. We will continue to monitor the news bulletins and daily updates from The World Health Organisation to ensure that we are kept informed and can act in the interests of our customers’ safety, which is always our highest priority.