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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Travel companies alert but not alarmed at West Africa Ebola outbreak


G Adventures guests explore the Gambia River in West Africa (R Eime)
Cruise, adventure and safari companies watching and waiting on West Africa Ebola scare. 

Media reports coming from West African countries gripped by Ebola virus panic are sending waves of fear into the travel industry. Travel companies are countering this perceived threat with education.

At time of writing, the death toll from the lethal virus had just exceeded 1200 with as many again infected, at least half of whom can be expected to die from the disease, a type of hemorrhagic fever.

Affected areas as at
August 2014 (click to enlarge)
Currently the outbreak is confined to Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria with neighbouring countries on alert.

“We have a full ship going up the coast from Cape Town to Morocco,” said Bruce Poon Tip, CEO of G Adventures to Travel Pulse in April. “But now we're dealing with all the border restrictions from countries that have been hit with the Ebola virus, who are closing off borders between countries.”

“The World Health Organization is now doing a lot of work,” said Poon Tip. “These are destinations that are on our trip. Liberia has now closed its border, so we’re looking at how to handle that at the moment. Doctors Without Borders is playing a big part, because these areas are so remote and so removed. And they don’t have access to medical services so people become fearful of going there. We’re hoping it doesn’t spread. And we’re working with how we’re going to work our itinerary around it.”

The disease has spread since Poon Tip’s comments.

Ebola may be deadly, but it's
actually difficult to catch.

  • There is a two- to 21-day incubation period, but most
    people who contract the disease will fall ill in about a week.
  • Patients who do contract the disease are not contagious
    until they are very sick.
  • It is not contagious through coughing or sneezing or any of
    the ways you would get a flu or common cold.
  • You cannot contract the disease from someone who has not
    yet exhibited any symptoms.
  • Contracting the disease requires direct close contact and
    contact with bodily fluids of an infected person, especially
    blood, and only when the patients are already very ill.
According to Katherine Harmon, the health intelligence director of iJET, a company that provides operational risk management solutions for multinational corporations and government organizations, “For a common traveller going to these areas, it would be very unlikely for them to contract the disease unless they are a person who works directly with people who are ill or someone who participates in funerals who has close contact with family members who are infected.”

G Adventures have updated their response and issued this statement on their website:

“G Adventures is aware of the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. We do have our West Africa Cruise scheduled on our Expedition vessel for April, 2015. The cruise will continue to operate. We are monitoring the situation, and may adjust the itinerary of this cruise as details become clearer and once viable options have been fully explored. Countries Affected: Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia, Niger, Sierra Leone.”

Meanwhile, David Herbert, head of Great Safaris, said “We deal with 13 countries in southern and eastern Africa and we do not see it posing any threat to our U.S.A. clients.”

But, said Herbert, “It may pose a perceived threat, if potential clients and their agents are not aware of geography. Africa is over three times larger than the continental U.S.A. and the outbreak of Ebola has been located in a part of West Africa.”

Sources used: Travel Pulse, NY Times,

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