The outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa continues to be of significant concern. The World Health Organization (WHO) initially identified the outbreak in forested areas of south eastern Guinea in March 2014. The number of cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia continue to climb making this the most serious recorded outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
There have been a significant number of confirmed cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. From more than 1201 confirmed cases across the three countries there have been more than 670 deaths. In addition, the Ministry of Health in Nigeria has reported their first case of EVD and subsequent death on 25 July 2014. The case was a Liberian national who travelled to Lagos, Nigeria via Tomé, Togo. Health screening is now being carried out and 'disease isolation centres' have been set up at international airports across Nigeria.
The Ebola virus causes EVD in humans, with a fatality rate of up to 90%. The symptoms of EVD are severe and can include high fever, muscle pain and weakness, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding. There is no known vaccine or cure for Ebola. The virus can be transmitted to humans from wild animals or between humans through bodily fluids, including blood, faeces and sweat. Transmission can also occur through direct contact with the body of a deceased Ebola patient.
Where possible, Australians should avoid travel to areas affected by Ebola virus. These areas are mentioned in relevant country travel advisories. Closely monitor the advice provided by local health authorities and the WHO. Australians in West Africa are advised to maintain strict standards of hygiene and avoid direct contact with patients with Ebola or unknown illnesses. Avoid contact with any objects that could have been contaminated with bodily fluids. Travellers should avoid contact with wild animals and should not eat or handle raw or undercooked animal products, such as blood and meat.
Know the symptoms of EVD (see also the link to the WHO Ebola factsheet below) and see a healthcare provider immediately if they develop before or after travel. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider that you have travelled to a region where Ebola was present.
Australians are also advised that borders in the region may be closed at short notice to contain the outbreak. Travellers should seek local advice about border closures before travelling in the region.