A task force has been set up by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to monitor the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and provide timely information to travellers and travel and tour operators.
The current Ebola outbreak has been confirmed in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; and recently an ill traveller from Liberia infected a small number of people in Nigeria with whom he had direct contact.
On August 8, 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa a global health emergency in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005). They however did not impose any travel restrictions.
In a press release, IATA stated: “In order to support global efforts to contain spread of the disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel and tourism sector, heads of the World Health Organization (WHO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Airports Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) decided to activate a Travel and Transport Task Force that will monitor the situation and provide timely information to the travel and tourism sector as well as to travellers”.
The statement said that the risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during air travel is low as it is not airborne. Transmission requires direct contact with bodily fluids of infected living or dead individuals or animals.
The Association advised travellers to avoid all such contacts and routinely practice careful hygiene, like hand-washing.
The risk of getting infected on an aircraft is also small, as sick persons usually feel so unwell they cannot travel and infection requires direct contact with body fluids of the infected person.
IATA called on travellers to seek medical attention at the first sign of illness (fever, headache, achiness, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash, red eyes, and in some cases, bleeding) to avoid infecting others and to also increase chances of recovery.
The Association called for strengthened international cooperation and support action to contain the virus and stop transmission to other countries including:
- exit-screening of all persons from affected countries at international airports, seaports and major land crossings for unexplained illnesses consistent with Ebola infection
- education and sensitization by governments for citizens travelling to Ebola-affected countries, among others.
Despite the closure of borders by neighbouring countries to prevent spread of the disease, Ghana’s Port Health Officials have said the country will not close its borders from the four countries currently affected in accordance with WHO and International Health Regulation.
Mr. Samuel Fiafemeti, Head of Port Health at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) said authorities have put measures in place to contain any threat posed by Ebola, including an ambulance to convey visibly-ill passengers arriving at the KIA to a newly-built isolation centre.