Leading international organizations and associations from the transport, trade and tourism sector – the Travel and Transport Task Force – stand firmly with the World Health Organization (WHO) against general bans on travel and trade, as well as restrictions that include general quarantine of travelers from Ebola-affected countries, an announcement by the UNWTO said on Monday, 10 November.
The Task Force was set up in August 2014 to support the global efforts to contain the spread of Ebola virus disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel, trade and tourism sector.
Members of the Travel and Transport Task Force include the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Airports Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA), World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
WHO does not recommend general bans on travel or trade
The Travel and Transport Task Force calls for international cooperation of governments and the transport sector in following the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola, convened by WHO.
WHO does not recommend general bans on travel or trade, or general quarantine of travelers arriving from Ebola-affected countries, as measures to contain the outbreak.
Such measures can create a false impression of control and may have a detrimental impact on the number of health care workers volunteering to assist Ebola control or prevention efforts in the affected countries. Such measures may also adversely reduce essential trade, including supplies of food, fuel and medical equipment to the affected countries, contributing to their humanitarian and economic hardship.
Exit screening for Ebola
Current exit screening of all persons departing affected countries through international airports, seaports and major land crossings is recommended by WHO and can reduce the numbers of people with symptoms from traveling from the countries with high levels of Ebola transmission.
While screening upon entry into non-affected countries may provide an opportunity to further increase public awareness about Ebola, such screening also can require significant resources including staff, facilities and systems to care for ill travelers who might be suspected of having Ebola.
Preparedness for non-affected countries
The best protective measures for non-affected countries are adequate levels of preparedness, including heightened surveillance to detect and diagnose cases early and well prepared staff and operational planning to ensure that suspect cases of Ebola are managed safely and in ways to minimize further spread.
Communication campaigns should be conducted to inform travelers, airlines, shipping crews, staff working at points of entry, and health workers everywhere about the symptoms of Ebola virus disease and what to do if a person has symptoms. Data on the efficiency of exit screening should be made available.
Advice to travelers
People who have traveled to 1 of the 3 West African countries currently affected by Ebola virus disease (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone) should take the following precautions for 21 days after returning:
– stay within reach of a good quality health care facility
– be aware of the symptoms of infection (sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and sometimes bleeding)
– immediately report a fever of 38° C or higher to their local medical emergency service (ideally by phone) and mention their travel history.
– Early treatment improves the chance of recovery.
– To catch Ebola requires direct contact with the body fluid of an Ebola-infected person.
– Asymptomatic individuals are not infectious, even if they are incubating the disease.
Attending international meetings
The IHR Emergency Committee agreed that there should not be a general ban on participation of people from countries with transmission of Ebola from attending international meetings and events. The decision of participation must be made on a case by case basis by the host country. This country may request additional health monitoring of participants.