With media often presenting skewed facts and stats around the Ebola outbreak, public perceptions of the real risks a disease actually presents are fast distorting and in many cases inaccurate.
Today, I am not going to write a medical journal with technical facts about the virus. There is enough material on this to go to the moon and back. No, today I am going to put a few things in perspective and hopefully make potential travellers to South Africa (and its neighbours) realise that it is not a life risk to visit our beautiful country.
Fact 1: How did Ebola get into other continents and countries other than West Africa?
Most people are overlooking the fact that non-African individuals, who get infected, are those who have voluntarily exposed themselves to the Ebola virus, by treating patients who suffer from Ebola. These individuals are mostly doctors or nurses. This virus did not spread to other individuals travelling to and from these countries.
Fact 2: What causes Ebola to spread?
Ebola spreads mainly due to poor hygiene and lack of proper procedures when dealing with the individuals who are infected. This includes wearing gloves, a cover over the mouth, nose and protective eyewear. Ebola is NOT airborne, is spreads in a liquid form only, e.g. sneezing, blood, urine etc. Most Africans are also not educated that handling the bodies of the deceased can still spread the virus. The chance of an epidemic in first-world countries, or even just areas with proper medical care, is very slim since the correct sanitary and quarantine procedures are implemented immediately.
Fact 3: Ebola is only present in a very small section of Africa, very far removed from Southern Africa.
I am not going to say much about this, see the illustration below for comprehensive insight.
Fact 4: South Africa is a very, very low risk country for Ebola
Apart from the fact that South Africa is more than 5000km away from the Ebola hotspot, it also has strict procedure at all ports of entry into the country. Should any individual come from the countries seen as an Ebola risk, they must submit to comprehensive medical testing before being allowed to continue. South Africa also has a very advanced medical infrastructure to quickly and effectively deal with any possible medical threat.
Fact 5: Contrary to media reports, South Africa does not have an Ebola cases in 2014
Many infographics show that South Africa has cases of Ebola – this was true in 1996, NOT 2014. Yes, South Africa had two cases of Ebola in its entire recorded medical history, the last case being 18 years ago.
Fact 6: Why is everyone (suddenly) so scared of Ebola?
“Rumours and panic are spreading faster than the virus,” said Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation. Yes, an outbreak of Ebola certainly is scary, but the risk of such an event occurring is much lower than alarming headlines would lead us to believe. The media is riding the wave of sensationalism, often painting a much, much darker picture than reality. Remember, the “spread” of Ebola to other continents is due to individuals voluntarily visiting, treating and coming into contact with Ebola-infected patients.
Fact 7: Panic and worry is due to lack of proper information
Given the facts above, it is clear that most of the worry is completely excessive. Yes, of course the world is concerned about this outbreak in West Africa, but it is well-contained and not spreading. In fact, a few countries have been cleared as an Ebola-infected country, like Nigeria.
If you want to travel to South Africa, there is nothing to fear about Ebola. South Africa is a low-risk country (same as the rest of the world without reported Ebola cases). It is currently safer to be in South Africa than in the USA and Europe! See below – so what is stopping you from booking your journey and coming right away? Summer season is here and South Africa cannot wait to host you for your journey!
(information is accurate at the time of writing – 05 Nov 2014) – Written by Leon Steyn, General and Marketing Manager, Baz Bus