Frustrated by the increasing number of airlines canceling service to the Ebola stricken countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – and today’s announcement from Korea Airlines that they would soon halt service to Kenya (where Ebola has not been detected) – the World Health Organization has gone on offensive today on twitter, and via an emailed statement to journalists, to reassure that the risks to air travelers are very small.
WHO: Air travel is low-risk for Ebola transmission
GENEVA ¦14 August 2014– The World Health Organization (WHO) today reiterated its position that the risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during air travel remains low.
“Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne,” says Dr Isabelle Nuttall, Director of WHO Global Capacity Alert and Response. “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.
“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,” says Dr Nuttall.
In early August, after the meeting of the Ebola Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations, WHO provided advice to countries to help contain the current Ebola outbreak and prevent it from spreading further.
The guidance recommended:
• no ban on international travel or trade;
• that countries be prepared to detect, investigate, and manage Ebola cases; including access 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.
Worldwide, countries should provide their citizens traveling to Ebola-affected countries with accurate and relevant information on the Ebola outbreak and measures to reduce the risk of exposure.
WHO media contacts:
Gregory Hartl: Telephone: +41 22 791 4458; Mobile: +41 79 203 6715; Email: email@example.com
Tarik Jasarevic: Telephone: +41 22 791 50 99; Mobile: +41 79 367 62 14; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fadéla Chaib: Telephone: + 41 22 791 3228; Mobile:+ 41 79 475 55 56; Email: email@example.com
More information about Ebola can be found at: http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/en/
All WHO information can be found at: www.who.int