Date: 18 Aug 2014
Source: WHO statement [edited]

The current Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak is believed to have begun in Guinea in December 2013. This outbreak now involves community transmission in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and recently an ill traveller from Liberia infected a small number of people in Nigeria with whom he had direct contact.

On 8 Aug 2014, WHO declared the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in accordance with the International Health Regulations (2005).

In order to support the global efforts to contain the spread of the disease and provide a coordinated international response for the travel and tourism sector, the heads of WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Airports Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) decided to activate a Travel and Transport Task Force which will monitor the situation and provide timely information to the travel and tourism sector as well as to travellers.

The risk of transmission of Ebola virus disease during air travel is low. Unlike infections such as influenza or tuberculosis, Ebola is not spread by breathing air (and the airborne particles it contains) from an infected person. Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animals, all unlikely exposures for the average traveller. Travellers are, in any event, advised to avoid all such contacts and routinely practice careful hygiene, like hand washing. The risk of getting infected on an aircraft is also small, as sick persons usually feel so unwell that they cannot travel, and infection requires direct contact with the body fluids of the infected person.

Most infections in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone are taking place in the community when family members or friends take care of someone who is ill or when funeral preparation and burial ceremonies do not follow strict infection prevention and control measures. A 2nd important place where transmission can occur is in clinics and other health care settings, when health care workers, patients, and other persons have unprotected contact with a person who is infected. In Nigeria, cases are related only to persons who had direct contact with a single traveller who was hospitalized upon arrival in Lagos.

It is important to note that a person who is infected is only able to spread the virus to others after the infected person has started to have symptoms. A person usually has no symptoms for 2-21 days (the "incubation period"). Symptoms include fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and, in some cases, bleeding. The risk of a traveller becoming infected with the ebolavirus during a visit to the affected countries and developing disease after returning is very low, even if the visit includes travel to areas in which cases have been reported. If a person, including a traveller, stayed in the areas where EVD cases have been recently reported, he/she should seek medical attention at the 1st sign of illness (fever, headache, aches, sore throat, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain, rash, red eyes, and in some cases, bleeding). Early treatment can improve prognosis.

Strengthened international cooperation is needed and should support action to contain the virus, stop transmission to other countries, and mitigate the effects in those affected.

Affected countries are requested to conduct exit screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings for unexplained febrile illness consistent with potential Ebola infection. Any person with an illness consistent with EVD should not be allowed to travel unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation. There should be no international travel of EVD contacts or cases, unless the travel is part of an appropriate medical evacuation. Non-affected countries need to strengthen the capacity to detect and immediately contain new cases while avoiding measures that will create unnecessary interference with international travel or trade.

WHO does not recommend any ban on international travel or trade, in accordance with advice from the WHO Ebola Emergency Committee. Travel restrictions and active screening of passengers on arrival at sea ports, airports or ground crossings in non-affected countries that do not share borders with affected countries are not currently recommended by WHO.

Worldwide, countries should provide to their citizens traveling to Ebola-affected countries accurate and relevant information on the Ebola outbreak and measures to reduce the risk of exposure.

Media contact:
Gregory Hartl
WHO Department of Communications
Telephone: +41 22 791 44 58
Mobile: +41 79 203 67 15
<hartlg@who.int>
Date: Tue, 13 May 2014 21:40:35 +0200 (METDST)

BANJUL, Gambia, May 13, 2014 (AFP) - The Gambia has lifted a ban on flights from Liberia and Sierra Leone imposed at the peak of the Ebola virus outbreak as Guinea said the spread of the deadly virus had "slowed significantly".   The outbreak in Guinea is one of the deadliest in history, with 233 cases "clinically compatible" with Ebola virus disease reported, and 157 deaths since the start of the year, according to the World Health Organization.   "The general public is hereby informed that airlines serving Banjul and the sub-region can now pick up passengers in Liberia and Sierra Leone," said a statement issued by the Gambian transport ministry.   President Yahya Jammeh ordered airlines to cancel all flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone on April 10 in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.   The new statement, dated Sunday, made no mention of Guinea, although it said further information would be provided in due course.

The spread of Ebola has "slowed significantly", with no new cases in Conakry since April 26, Guinea's health ministry said on Tuesday. The total number of laboratory-confirmed Ebola cases in Guinea is 133, including 83 deaths, it added.   "This is positive news for us. The restriction on the movement of people from Sierra Leone to the Gambia has nearly crippled my business," said Isa Camara, a Sierra Leone businesswoman who buys textiles from the Gambia for sale in Freetown.    The Gambian government has not revealed how effective the ban was at keeping out travellers from Liberia and Sierra Leone.   "I travel from Freetown to Dakar by flight and from there, I travel by road to the Gambia," a Gambian who asked not to be named told AFP.   "Since Sierra Leone did not register any cases of Ebola, I don't think it was prudent to ask flights servicing the sub-region not to pick up passengers from Freetown to Banjul."

The Ebola outbreak across west Africa began in the impoverished country's southern forests, spreading to Conakry, a sprawling port city on the Atlantic coast and home to two million people.   Liberia has reported six lab-confirmed cases, six probable or suspected cases and 11 deaths, while Sierra Leone had two suspected cases of Ebola, both of which turned out to be Lassa fever.   The Gambia, a country of about 1.8 million, is a finger of territory flanking the Gambia River, with Senegal on either side and a narrow Atlantic coastline.   Jammeh, 48, is often pilloried for taking unilateral and seemingly impetuous decisions as well as for rights abuses and the muzzling of the press.
Date: 28 Apr 2014
Source: The Daily Observer, Banjul, Gambia [edited]
<http://allafrica.com/stories/201404282430.html>

Ever since the deadly Ebola virus broke out in neighbouring Guinea in Conakry, the Gambia government through its Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and partners have been on their toes and have been devising various strategies to prevent it from hitting the country.

As part of these strategies, the Ministry in collaboration with the UN system, through the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), recently organised a training of trainers' synergy for health workers and non-health workers on ebolavirus disease preparedness and response. [Read more at Source URL.]
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:56:37 +0200 (METDST)

BANJUL, Gambia, April 15, 2014 (AFP) - The Gambia has banned flights from Ebola-hit west African countries from landing in its territory, airport officials told AFP on Tuesday.   Staff at Banjul International Airport said on condition of anonymity that President Yahya Jammeh had ordered airlines to cancel all flights from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

"This decision by the Gambian authorities has left prospective passengers travelling to Banjul ... stranded in these west African countries," said an airport official, speaking on condition of anonymity.    "Brussels Airlines, which transits in Freetown from Europe, is only allowed to drop passengers there, but not pick anyone up."   The outbreak in Guinea is one of the most deadly in history, with 168 cases "clinically compatible" with Ebola virus disease reported, including 108 deaths, since the start of the year, according to the World Health Organization.

The outbreak began in the impoverished country's southern forests, but has spread to Conakry, a sprawling port city on the Atlantic coast and home to two million people   Neighbouring Liberia has reported 20 probable or suspected cases, six lab-confirmed cases and 13 deaths.   Mali also has suspected cases but does not appear to have been targeted for any kind of restrictions by the Gambia, although there are no direct flights between the two countries.

There was no immediate official confirmation of the ban from the Gambia but an airport worker told AFP a letter dated April 10 enforcing the measures had been sent to airlines while Sierra Leone's government said it was in talks with Banjul over the issue.    It was not immediately clear if sanctions were being threatened against airlines or airport authorities for ignoring the ban.   "I went to the Gambia Bird office in the Greater Banjul area to purchase an air ticket for my elder brother currently in Sierra Leone but was informed by the travel agent that they are not selling tickets to passengers travelling from Monrovia and Freetown," Banjul resident Nyima Sanneh told AFP.   "I was told that my brother should instead board a flight to Dakar and later to Banjul. My brother and his colleagues are currently stranded in Monrovia."

Sierra Leone, has no living suspected cases, although two probable victims died and were buried before they could be tested.   The country said it was not questioning the Gambia's right to take action but had no idea of the rationale behind the decision.   "The government of Sierra Leone is currently engaging the Gambian government on the issue and providing all details of the surveillance system put in effect against the disease," said government spokesman Abdulai Bayratay.   "We still have no confirmed laboratory test of any Ebola outbreak here and this has been certified by the WHO, working with our health teams.   "Sierra Leonean air passengers are travelling freely to Britain, Belgium and all over the world without hindrance."
  
- Business 'near ruin' -  
Witnesses at Freetown's Lungi International Airport told AFP around 100 Sierra Leoneans, mostly traders, had been planning trips to the Gambia but had seen their flights cancelled.    "My business in now near ruin. I have accepted money from people planning for a wedding and I was due to return in few days time to deliver the goods but with the ban now on, I am in a jam," textile trader Alimamy Turay told AFP.

The Gambia, a country of about 1.8 million, is a finger of territory flanking the Gambia River, with Senegal on either side and a narrow Atlantic coastline.   Jammeh, 48, is often pilloried for taking unilateral and seemingly impetuous decisions as well as for rights abuses and the muzzling of the press.   In March, he said the former British colony would be dropping English as its official language and in 2008, he gave an ultimatum to gays and lesbians to leave his country, saying he would "cut off the head" of any homosexual found in the Gambia.   Two years later, the European Union cancelled 22 million euros ($30 million) of aid because of concerns over human rights and governance issues.
Date: Sat 12 Apr 2014
Source: Freedom Newspaper, Gambia [edited]
<http://www.freedomnewspaper.com/Homepage/tabid/36/newsid367/9809/Jammeh-Ban-Flights-Coming-From-Liberia-Sierra-Leone-And-Guinea-From-Landing-In-Gambia-Following-Ebola-Outbreak/Default.aspx>

Gambia's dictator Yahya Jammeh has ordered the banning of all flights coming from Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone, and Liberia from landing at the Banjul International airport with immediate effect, the Freedom Newspaper can reveal. The decision followed the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the West African region. He said the decision to ban flights coming from the above-named countries was in line with Gambia's efforts to prevent its citizens from getting infected with the dreadful Ebola pandemic. Hundreds of passengers have been stranded across the West African region, following Jammeh's latest decree to ban airlines from landing in The Gambia.

Health Ministry officials and Banjul Aviation staff have confirmed the story. According to sources, many travellers have been compelled to travel by land through other countries as The Gambia Civil Aviation Management said they have been instructed by Jammeh to turn down flights coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

"The approach taken by Jammeh is wrong, says an official of the Ministry of Health. "We can fight Ebola without banning incoming flights." Even the minister of health is not happy with the decision. The airport is going to lose a lot of revenue in coming days and weeks because of Jammeh's decision," he warned.

In Liberia, it is reported that many passengers travelling to The Gambia have been stranded. One of the passengers told the Freedom Newspaper that he had to cancel his air ticket reservation because of Jammeh's decision to ban incoming flights.
More ...