WHO issues ‘international public health emergency’ for Ebola; tourism industry in doldrum

In the wake of what is being considered as the worst Ebola outbreak in history, World Health Organization (WHO) issued an ‘international public health emergency’. More than 900 people have died since the epidemic broke out earlier this year.

Ebola outbreak stands as a serious threat for international tourism industry. As the tragic epidemic, passed on through contact with blood or bodily fluids of the infected, has no cure and a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, nations are taking extra precautions to ensure that there’s no possible outbreak in their country/city. Certain carriers have already suspended flights to regions near and across West Africa. Emirates was the first major international airline to suspend service to Guinea, saying “the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised.” British Airways is the latest major airline to suspend flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, due to the “deteriorating public health situation.” BA’s cancellation comes as it emerged that a Cardiff resident has quarantined themselves at home over fears they may have been exposed to the deadly virus in West Africa.

Tourists willing to travel to Africa’s favourite tourist hotspots are being warned to take necessary precautions before travelling. “From a tourism perspective, the countries primarily affected by this Ebola outbreak are not what drives African tourism,” Max Rayner, partner of travel industry analyst group Hudson Crossing, told Yahoo Travel.

“But as was shown during the SARS and avian flu outbreaks, tourists and businesspeople considering travel to South Africa, Nigeria, or Kenya will understand that while on a plane, they could be exposed to other passengers who may indeed have come from the affected areas.”

Most recently, quite a few cases of Ebola has been reported in Nigeria, which is also a popular tourist destination among international travellers. More cases of Ebola moving across borders via air travel are expected, as West Africa faces the largest outbreak of the hemorrhagic virus in history, said Tom Frieden, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

United States is also bracing for possible outbreak, but the impact won’t be large, US health authorities said.

If not contained in time, the outbreak can pose a serious threat to the tourism industry. Tour Operators are already mulling over planned trips to various parts of Africa. Many nations beefing up security procedures at airports to refrain the infected, still any full-proof solution is yet to be doled out.

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