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Health Information for Travelers to Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia

On January 6, 2015, CDC urged all US residents to avoid nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia because of unprecedented outbreaks of Ebola in those countries. CDC recommends that travelers to these countries protect themselves by avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick, because of the possibility they may be sick with Ebola.

Freetown, Sierra Leone

What is the current situation?

An outbreak of Ebola has been ongoing in Sierra Leone since May 2014. Outbreaks are also occurring in Guinea and Liberia; these outbreaks of Ebola are the largest and most complex in history. Civil unrest and violence against aid workers have been reported in West Africa as a result of the outbreak. The public health infrastructure in Sierra Leone is being severely strained as the outbreak grows.

CDC recommends that US residents avoid nonessential travel to Sierra Leone. If you must travel, such as for humanitarian aid work in response to the outbreak, protect yourself by following CDC’s advice for avoiding contact with the blood and body fluids of people who are sick with Ebola.

The recommendation to avoid nonessential travel is intended to help control the outbreak and prevent continued spread in two ways: to protect US residents who may be planning travel to the affected areas, and to enable the government of Sierra Leone to respond most effectively to contain this outbreak. CDC is committed to the multinational effort to help Sierra Leone control the outbreak and is scaling up its response activities by, among other things, deploying additional staff to the affected countries. Substantial international humanitarian assistance is required, and CDC encourages airlines to continue flights to and from the region to facilitate transport of teams and supplies essential to control the outbreak. Healthcare and management experts who have specialized skills and experience working in this kind of environment are needed to help in countries with Ebola. All aid workers should be affiliated with a recognized humanitarian aid organization.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a rare and deadly disease. The disease is caused by infection with one of the Ebola virus species (Zaire, Sudan, Bundibugyo, or Tai Forest virus). Ebola is spread by direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with

  • blood or body fluids (such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola,

  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus, and

  • infected fruit bats or primates (apes and monkeys).

Signs of Ebola include fever and symptoms such as severe headache, fatigue (feeling very tired), muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Who is at risk?

Travelers could be infected if they come into contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is sick or has died from Ebola. Healthcare workers and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids.

People also can become sick with Ebola if they come into contact with infected wildlife or raw or undercooked bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) from an infected animal.

What can travelers do to prevent Ebola?

There is no approved vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, and many people who get the disease die. Therefore, it is important to take steps to prevent Ebola.

  • Avoid nonessential travel to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

  • If you must travel, please make sure to do the following:

    • Before your trip, check your health insurance plan to learn what is covered in the event that you become sick. CDC recommends that anyone traveling to Sierra Leone have full coverage, including coverage for emergency medical evacuation.

      • Information about medical evacuation services can be found on the US Department of State’s website on the Air Ambulance/MedEvac/Medical Escort Providers page.

      • Some insurance providers are excluding medical evacuation coverage for people who have Ebola. Check with providers to ensure you have the coverage you need.

      • Be sure to check the coverage limits for evacuation insurance. Also check to see if the policy covers evacuation to the United States or to the nearest location where adequate medical care is offered.

    • Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

    • Avoid contact with blood and body fluids (such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen).

    • Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids.

    • Avoid contact with dead bodies, including participating in funeral or burial rituals.

    • Avoid contact with animals (such as bats or monkeys) or with raw or undercooked meat.

    • Do not eat or handle bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food).

    • Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The US Embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities that are suitable for your needs. The US Embassy in Freetown can be reached at +(232) 76-515-000.

    • Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (100.4°F / 38°C or above) or other symptoms such as severe headache, fatigue (feeling very tired), muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

  • Limit your contact with other people when you travel to the doctor. Do not travel anywhere else.

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