I received a phone call from my mother a few days ago who took a moment to express her concern about my upcoming trip to California this weekend.
Perhaps I should have thought a bit more about the possibility of contracting Ebola due to the seemingly lax response we've witnessed across the board – but to be honest, it never really came to mind.
But she got me thinking about how travel counsellors are responding to inquiries from clients with travel concerns, many of whom are no doubt much the same as my dear mom and worried about the possibility of coming in contact with someone who came in contact with someone who came in contact with the virus. The Ebola outbreak is ongoing in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with other cases confirmed in both the U.S. and Spain.
Some countries have been quick to respond – for example, St. Lucia, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands have banned people who have travelled directly or indirectly from or through the West African nations affected.
"Ebola has the potential to disrupt air travel like terrorism and plane crashes could never equal," Norm Payne of Custom Travel Solutions told me when I asked for a comment on the issue, noting that he hasn't yet had any client inquiries on the subject.
That last point might be a bit surprising, but a recent poll by the Global Business Travel Association showed that nearly 80 per cent of travel managers surveyed said international business travel has either not been impacted at all or has not been impacted much during the past month.
Even still, agencies across the country continue to monitor the situation.
Admitting the gravity and possible impact of the outbreak, Jeff Verman of Uniglobe Plus Travel Group said that they've been keeping a close eye on travel advisories and alerts (consider e-travel alters: http://www.etravelalerts.com/Ebola/), and are prepared to help with client requests depending on how they wish to proceed in light of the situation.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says it continues to monitor and track the outbreak, working closely with provinces and territories to support their readiness.
"Our experience in dealing with public health issues, including SARS, H1N1 and H5N1, has strengthened Canada’s preparedness for public health risks or outbreaks," the agency said in a release last week.
They Government of Canada has offered these recommendations for travellers that agents can share:
- Avoid direct contact with blood and other body fluids of people with Ebola virus disease or unknown illnesses.
- Avoid direct contact with bodies of people who died of Ebola virus disease or unknown illnesses.
- Avoid contact with any objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids.
- Avoid unprotected sexual activity with an infected person or a person recovering from Ebola virus disease (abstain from sexual intercourse or use latex condoms for 15 weeks following the start of symptoms).
- Health care workers should practise strict infection control measures including the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (i.e., gowns, masks, goggles and gloves) when providing care for suspect or confirmed cases.
- Avoid close contact with or handling of animals.
- Avoid live or dead animals, as both can spread the virus. Animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest antelope, pigs, porcupines, duikers and fruit bats may be carriers.
- Avoid handling of raw or undercooked meat.
- Practise strict hand washing routines.
- Know the symptoms of Ebola virus disease and see a health care provider if they develop during travel.
- Monitor your health upon your return or entry into Canada.
- Under the Quarantine Act, when arriving in Canada, you must report to a Border Services or Quarantine Officer if you have, or suspect you have a contagious illness or if you have been close to someone with a contagious illness. The Border Services or Quarantine Officer will determine whether you need further medical assessment.
- Seek medical attention immediately, if a fever and/or any other symptoms arise within three weeks after your return to Canada.
- Be sure to tell your health care provider before your appointment that you have travelled to a region where Ebola virus disease was present and inform them of your symptoms and the activities or work you participated in. This way, the health care provider can arrange to see you without exposing others. If you are concerned that you are infected, it is important to limit your contact with others as much as possible until you can be assessed by the health care provider.
Verman also recommends monitoring this website - http://healthmap.org/ebola/#timeline – which is updated daily and shows the progression of the outbreak.
Please share your comments below or email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – regarding if clients are coming to you with travel concerns due to Ebola, and how you are responding to said concerns.