Written by Philip Briggs
Ebola is hitting tourism in Africa very hard, despite the fact that the vast majority of this enormous continent has not been touched by the disease. The following is a word about the reality of the ebola risk written by Philip Briggs, author of a dozen Bradt guidebooks. Philip lives in Africa and is one of the world’s leading experts on travelling in the region.
The notion that you’ll be exposed to ebola on a normal tourist visit to Africa is linked to the widespread misconception that Africa is one homogenous country. In fact, Africa is the world’s second-largest continent, accounting for more than 20% of the planet’s land area, and comprised of 50 different countries. At the time of writing (December 2014), not one single case of ebola has been reported from the majority of these countries. Indeed, the current ebola outbreak is largely confined to one cluster of neighbouring countries in West Africa (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). These countries are closer to Europe than to many popular safari destinations in eastern and southern Africa like Tanzania, Botswana and South Africa.
Furthermore, even where the disease has been recorded, the only way in which it can be contracted is through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. This is why the handful of Westerners who have contracted ebola to date were all healthcare workers who treated other ebola victims. Statistically, the chance of contacting ebola in most African countries is effectively zero – you are significantly more likely to be killed by a direct lightning strike, by slipping in the shower or by being hit on the head by a falling coconut!