Science

Risk of Ebola Transmission Through Air Travel Low – WHO

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THE World Health Organization on Friday reiterated its position that the risk of the transmission of the Ebola virus during air travel remains low.

Dr Isabelle Nuttal, Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response said unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne.

“It can only be transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of a person who is sick with the disease.”

“On the small chance that someone on the plane is sick with Ebola, the likelihood of other passengers and crew having contact with their body fluids is even smaller. Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so unwell that they cannot travel. WHO is therefore advising against travel bans to and from affected countries.” said Nuttal.

On this basis the WHO has reiterated a recommendation made early in August on air travel. WHO recommends no travel bans on international travel or trade. Countries have also been advised to be prepared to detect, investigate and manage Ebola cases. This includes access to a qualified to a qualified diagnostic laboratory for Ebola virus and, where appropriate, the capacity to identify and care for travellers originating from known Ebola-infected areas who arrive at international airports or major land crossing points with unexplained fever and other symptoms.

“Because the risk of Ebola transmission on airplanes is so low, WHO does not consider air transport hubs at high risk for further spread of Ebola,” said Dr Nuttall.

The recommendation comes after Kenya Airways refused to stop flights to the three countries in West Africa worst hit by the ebola virus despite fears that it might spread to Kenya.

President Uhuru Kenyatta also said that the world should not shun the people of West Africa because of the virus, stating that “Ebola is there but we will conquer. We will defeat it.”

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