International travel and health

West Africa - Ebola virus disease

28 March 2014 – Confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been recently reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The most common symptoms experienced by individuals infected with the virus are the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding. Laboratory findings include low white blood cells and platelets counts and elevated liver enzymes. People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery from illness. The incubation period (interval from infection to onset of symptoms) varies between 2 to 21 days.

The risk of infection for travellers is very low since most human infections result from direct contact with the body fluids or secretions of infected patients, particularly in hospitals (nosocomial transmission) and as a result of unsafe procedures, use of contaminated medical devices (including needles and syringes) and unprotected exposure to contaminated body fluids. Travellers should avoid all contact with infected patients. Those who are providing medical care or are involved in the evaluation of an outbreak should wear protective clothing, including masks, gloves, gowns, eye protection and practice proper infection control and sterilization measures. Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola.

Anyone who stayed in the areas where EVD cases have been recently reported should be aware of the symptoms of infection and advised to seek medical attention at the first sign of illness. Clinicians managing returning travellers from visiting these areas with compatible symptoms are advised to take into consideration the possibility of EVD. Malaria, typhoid fever, shigellosis, cholera, leptospirosis, plague, rickettsiosis, relapsing fever, meningitis, hepatitis and other viral haemorrhagic fevers are differential diagnosis to consider in these patients.

WHO does not recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied in respect to this event.

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