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I'm travelling to Morocco over the Easter period, and while I am aware that the current Ebola outbreak is mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Mali, and would have to cross the Sahara to get to Morocco, is it wise for me to go to Morocco at this time?

What are some basic precautions I can take in the case that the Ebola virus travels to Morocco?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 21 down vote accepted

(Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, etc)

Ebola is not contagious in the same way as, say, influenza outbreaks.

It's a horrible contagious disease, but it requires an exchange of bodily fluids for transmission - particularly blood, sweat, sexual fluids, vomit, bile etc. Transmission usually occurs in close proximity - between family members, sexual partners or others sharing accommodation, through medical contact, or contact with improperly-treated deceased.

Check your own government's travel advice: but for an example, the (very cautious) UK government are currently not even warning people against travel to Guinea let alone Morocco - here's their specific health advice on Ebola in Guinea:

The risk to most travellers is very low... Transmission of Ebola can only occur when there is direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, animal, or objects, such as needles, that have been contaminated with blood or body fluids.

As for Morocco, not only is it the other side of the Sahara to the Ebola outbreak, the areas between (Northern Mali, Western Sahara, South West Algeria) are unstable barely populated areas with banditry and very little travel or trade. If ebola was to spread to Morocco, it would almost certainly be by plane travel, which is a) closely monitored and b) no more likely to arrive at Morocco than any other country that flies to Guinea.


Those Ebola horror stories from the past that people love to share, of terrifyingly fast-spreading outbreaks, usually involve poorly prepared hospitals and communities responding in ways that aid transmission, such as re-using needles, traditional burial practices such as embalming bodies, and treating the sick without taking appropriate precautions. There have been major efforts since then to ensure medical facilities are better trained.

You'll see from news reports that even in the countries most effected, the numbers of people affected are (so far, touch wood) low.

If you were going to one of the country where there were some cases of ebola and you were worried, these might be sensible precautions:

  • Take similar precautions as you would to avoid HIV infection (no unsafe sex or shared needle use, avoid other exchanges of bodily fluids)
  • Consider additional precautions to avoid exchanging sweat. Maybe skip the gym.
  • If you're exceptionally worried or there were reports of medium-sized outbreaks while there, and you wanted to feel like you were being extra-cautious:
    • you might want to make more effort to maintain personal space and maybe avoid skin contact such as shaking hands,
    • you might want to wash your hands more than usual and consider using hand sanitizers after physical contact with people or things that have been in close contact to other people before touching food or your face,
    • ...but even these might be a bit excessive unless you were right in an outbreak, in which case there would probably be an evacuation plan.

I'll end with a quote in the USA Today article As Ebola spreads in Africa, how worried should I be? from a director of virology at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit:

"You probably couldn't get Ebola if you went to Conakry [capital of Guinea] now if you tried"

If it was me, I'd keep an eye on the news, and I'd take normal health precautions, but wouldn't let worries spoil the trip.

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fantastic, comprehensive answer. Thank you! –  Darko Z Apr 7 at 15:18

Interesting, this came up in the latest podcast from Dr Karl, a science speaker in Australia.

What I learned from this is that while Ebola is very, very bad to get (90% death-rate), it has a problem. While colds transmit very easily between people because of the incubation time and infection rate, Ebola's symptoms can appear very early, and visibly (bleeding etc) making it pretty darn clear who is sick, and to stay away from them. As a result, it doesn't spread very rapidly through populations, and outbreaks can be contained quite well compared to flu epidemics.

As a result, while the risk is slightly higher in those other countries where the outbreaks are, you're still more likely to have a car accident and die than get ebola and die, so it shouldn't stop you going. And Morocco? It's thousands of kilometres away, and the traffic between those countries is very slow, apart from limited air travel. The odds of you getting infection - while not zero, are very, very small.

Precautions-wise - there's not much. There's no vaccine available, and so all you can do is avoid infected people - which is not a useful statement, but I guess it comes down to being alert for ill individuals. Symptoms tend to start with fevers, muscle pains, sometimes rashes, and then progress to vomiting and bleeding, so if you or anyone around you is ill, make sure they get seen to as soon as possible. Remember though, not to panic, you may just have Delhi Belly, or the local Moroccan variant ;)

You could also consider avoiding animals if you're really concerned, as some are natural carriers (fruit bats, for example) of the disease. But again, it's unlikely.

Also keep an eye on your embassy's alert lists, as well as the news, as they'll alert you to any closer outbreaks or dangers.

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"It's thousands of kilometers away". Depends where you are: the closest point of Morocco to Mali is actually only 375km. –  David Richerby Apr 7 at 19:40
    
@DavidRicherby well spotted, it was really just meant as a hyperbole. –  Mark Mayo Apr 8 at 3:16
    
OK. On the other hand, I assume there's no ebola in Saharan Mali. Marrakesh to Bamako is 2100km; Marakesh to Monrovia is over 2800km. –  David Richerby Apr 8 at 7:00
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Then there's practical/figurative distance: if I was a lorry or coach driver, I'd rather drive a 10,000 mile route than 100 miles through Northern Mali, SW Algeria or across the Morocco/Western Sahara border... It's as unpopular a transit route (and therefore as minor a route in epidemiological terms) as destinations thousands of miles further apart as the crow flies. –  user568458 Apr 8 at 11:26

According to this news outlet and to Morocco's official website. No Ebola case has been reported in Morocco.

Check out this: Click here

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+1 useful link, thanks! –  Darko Z Apr 12 at 21:47

protected by Karlson Aug 5 at 17:19

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