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Ebola and World Expeditions position on travelling in Africa – November 2014
There are plenty of people wondering whether it is a good idea to book a trip to Africa, or if booked, should they continue with their planned itinerary due to the Ebola outbreak in some West African nations. We’ve prepared this statement to share some key facts about Ebola to assist.
The first thing to consider is that Africa is a huge continent. The entire land mass of the USA, China, Eastern Europe, Japan, UK and India collectively fit within its parameters. We think this map provides a good indication of the coloured countries (Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia) where the Ebola has been detected and has taken lives and the remaining African countries which are Ebola Free.
What you’ll recognise from this is that the virus is in a very tiny area of the continent and destinations such as Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco, Ethiopia, Uganda, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa as examples, where most tours operate, are unaffected. World Expeditions does not operate trips to any of the affected countries. Further, it would be our recommendation that travellers visiting other areas of Africa do not tack on any additional travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia at this time.
The next important point is that organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as many other medical experts and teams, are working swiftly to contain the virus in the affected areas and operating diligent surveillance of whether the virus is spreading to other nations. They appear to be effective as there is no evidence of the Ebola virus spreading to other nations and some countries such as Nigeria, where cases of Ebola was present, have contained the virus and are now declared an Ebola free nation.
The only way that Ebola may be transmitted from one person to another is through coming into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids when that person is displaying the symptoms of Ebola. Currently there is no evidence that Ebola can be contracted by airborne transmission. Researchers have found a different strain where there is evidence of airborne transmission from pigs to monkeys but that strain does not infect humans and should be discounted as posing any threat. As the Ebola virus cannot be contracted by a person unless there is transmission of the fluids of an infected person to another it is widely accepted that Ebola will not evolve to a pandemic.
While the loss of anyone’s life is a great tragedy, the actual number of deaths by Ebola including the total number of people infected, is very very low compared to other diseases in the world. HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, flu and diarrheal diseases cause more than 9 million deaths worldwide each year.
Our Governments are always monitoring changing circumstances in countries where disease outbreaks, war and natural disasters are occurring. Their duty of care to citizens of their nation is to report on these situations with advice for travellers. Of note, other than the countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, there is no country in Africa where our governments are warning travellers not to visit due to this virus. You can be sure that if they felt there was a real risk for travellers visiting other areas of Africa, that their travel advices would see the stealthy inclusion of a ‘do not travel’ warning against such countries.
Finally, from a purely humanitarian perspective, there are companies operating holidays for foreign visitors across Africa who are the source of employment for hundreds of thousands of local African people. To decide not to travel to Africa at this time will have an adverse affect on them and their families.
We do hope you will consider the real facts in determining whether to travel to Africa at this time.
Nepal Update: 20 October 2014
On October 14, a serious storm hit the upper Annapurna, Mustang and Manaslu regions resulting in blizzard conditions with prevailing heavy snow conditions and avalanche activity. Tragically, this has resulted in a human death toll of over 35 people and there are still tens of others missing. Our sincere condolences and thoughts are with the family and friends of the deceased.
As per our previous release all World Expeditions trekkers and staff are safe and have been accounted for.
A significant rescue mission was mobilised last Wednesday and remains underway. The worst hit area was around the famous Thorong La (5380m), a pass linking the Annapurna and Mustang regions. The pass was closed over the weekend to enable the rescue personnel to do their work unhindered and because there may still be a risk of avalanche activity.
This storm and the ensuing situation is a reminder to all trekkers intending to visit the Himalaya that mountain environments are not to be underestimated. The weather patterns are unpredictable and freak storms, such as the blizzards that struck these high areas last Tuesday, while rare, can occur without much notice. Independent trekkers are particularly vulnerable and should be extremely careful in their planning and with decisions taken when crossing high mountain passes or trekking into remote terrain.
World Expeditions highlights that any trekking in Nepal should be approached with respect; a philosophy that initiated the company’s focus on risk minimisation, guide training, menu and hygiene planning as well as emergency procedures, decades ago. We take our duty of care to our thousands of travellers to Nepal each season seriously. Our itineraries are carefully planned with acclimatisation and rest days that can also be utilised in the case of deteriorating weather conditions. Each of our travellers is provided with a detailed clothing and equipment list to ensure they are comprehensively prepared for adverse weather and cold climate trekking, as well as fitness preparation guidelines. The remaining risk is managed by our highly experienced trekking guides and crew. On all treks our guides carry comprehensive medical kits and safety equipment and where pass crossings or remote valleys are involved, additional equipment such as space blankets and bivouac tents, portable altitude chambers and satellites phones are also carried. Our guide to traveller ratio is high and all members are kept together so there is careful monitoring in these circumstances. Our guides, who are highly adept in high altitude conditions and reading the signs, will take the ultimate decision about whether to cross a pass or venture into an isolated valley.
Trekking in the Himalaya is a most enjoyable activity and personal journey with profound rejuvenating qualities. This tragedy should not be viewed as a reason not to go trekking, but rather, to appreciate that mountain environments can be unpredictable and trekkers should thoroughly understand the risks if trekking independently, or, choose to book their treks with a reputable trekking company where specialist knowledge and experience exists.
Nepal Update: 16 October 2014
Severe rain and snow storms struck the Annapurna region on Tuesday triggering blizzards and heavy snow conditions. World Expeditions is monitoring the situation closely with regular updates from its operators in Kathmandu. All World Expeditions travellers are safe and accounted for.
Lebanon Update: 4 August 2014
There has been continuing tension in Beirut and Tripoli, including random explosions and violent demonstrations, with sporadic closure of the main road leading to the international airport in Beirut. Govt Travel Advices warn against travel to regions of the Bekaa Valley, where World Expeditions scheduled itineraries would visit, due to proximity to the Syrian border and ongoing tension in those regions. The ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria is having a destabilising effect on Lebanon and together with internal political and sectarian tensions there is potential for violent protests in any part of the country. All World Expeditions scheduled departures remain cancelled until further notice.
Kenya Update: 4 August 2014
All clients visiting Nairobi and Mombasa are strongly advised to pay close attention to personal security at all times, heed the advice of local authorities, hotels and tour guides and avoid non-essential visits to large public places. You should avoid the Nairobi central CBD area (World Expeditions does not stay at hotels in the central CBD) and low income areas of the city particularly Kibera, Mathare, Kasirani and Eastleigh.
Aust Govt Travel Advisory advises to “Reconsider Your Need to Travel” for coastal Tana River county and all of Lamu county due to the high threat of ongoing violence and terrorist attack. For the time being, all trips to Lamu are not operational.
Govt Travel Advice also warns not to travel to the border regions with Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and the A2 highway north of Isiolo. None of these regions are visited on World Expeditions itineraries. Our local partners and other tour operators in Kenya continue to host many visitors from around the world. There are no travel restrictions in place for Kenya overall, with the exception of the FCO (UK) travel advice below.
The FCO (UK) advises against all but essential travel to Mombasa Island and the surrounding area (within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north to Tiwi in the south, but not including Diani or Moi International Airport) following recent incidents and the continuing threat of violence in the area. Following on from this, several UK travel companies have cancelled all charter (private) flights and trips to Mombasa until 2015. The FCO (UK) advisory to avoid all but non-essential travel currently refers to specific areas in and around Mombasa (as above), the regions within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island (both are north of Lamu Island), the Garissa District (near Somalia), the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, and Lamu County and those areas of Tana River County north of the Tana river itself. The travel advisories from the governments of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA remain at a lower level.
Security around major establishments in Nairobi and Mombasa such as airports, government buildings, shopping malls and hotels is very high, and has been for a while now. These include enhanced security checks at all Kenyan airports, and on the main roads leading to/from the airports. Also there have been no changes or cancellations to international scheduled flights by the major airlines (eg. Kenya Airways; KLM etc) passing through Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (Nairobi) or Moi International Airport (Mombasa). All World Expeditions scheduled departures to Kenya remain operational, as are transits through Nairobi to other East African countries. All our tour guides are trained to keep abreast of local conditions and to avoid the nominated areas of Nairobi. Further updates will be provided should the situation change. The safety of our travellers is our foremost priority, and we are receiving constant updates from our local partners in Kenya.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS): 4 August 2014
Cases of MERS have been reported in several Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Lebanon. Other countries outside the Middle East have also reported imported cases from returned travellers. The majority of cases have either lived in or travelled to Saudi Arabia, or had close contact with travellers or healthcare workers returning from this country. MERS can cause a rapid onset of severe respiratory illness, and a variety of other symptoms. There is no vaccine for MERS. Camels are suspected to be the source of infection for sporadic cases, and person-to-person transmission has been documented in healthcare settings. WHO does not advise any special health screening or travel restrictions to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. World Expeditions does not operate any trips in Saudi Arabia. A precautionary letter has been sent to all clients that are travelling to the Middle East or transiting through Middle East airports, to inform them about MERS and details preventative measures including thorough hand washing and avoiding contact with camels. If you have any concerns, please discuss with your doctor/GP.
Egypt Update: 4 August 2014
As a result of ongoing political tensions in Egypt the security situation across the country remains unstable. Further violence and civil unrest as a result of ongoing demonstrations could occur without warning. Due to the potential for ongoing civil unrest, and Govt Travel Advice for Australia, UK, NZ, Canada and USA all indicating all but essential travel should be avoided, World Expeditions' scheduled departures to Egypt remain cancelled until further notice.
Syria Update: 4 August 2014
Civil unrest continues to occur throughout Syria, affecting the entire country. Security along and entry / exit to/from any of Syria's borders or airports cannot be guaranteed. The Australian, UK, NZ & Canadian Government Travel Advices and the US State Department continue to warn against travel to all parts of Syria. In light of travel warnings that remain in place, World Expeditions’ scheduled departures to Syria have been cancelled until further notice.
Mozambique Update: 4 August 2014
Due to ongoing political unrest in the central province of Sofala, and recent violent clashes between the rebel Renamo group and government forces in the Inhambane province, World Expeditions itineraries passing through these areas of the country have been re-routed to avoid Mozambique. This is a temporary change at this stage and as soon as the country becomes more settled in these regions, original itineraries will be restored. Please refer to your trip notes for details.