I was in West Africa in September (Nigeria and Ghana) this year. People from the U.S. asked me if I was concerned about contracting Ebola. Some people simply do not want to meet me for at least 21 days (incubation period). Good news; it is now past 21 days and no symptoms! Because of the continued news coverage and actual cases in the U.S. there is a heightened awareness and concern.
In response to numerous phone calls and conversations I would like to provide you with the latest developments and some observations about this terrible, deadly virus.
7 Facts about Ebola
1. If you live outside of the three major contamination areas (Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) and you are not involved in treating Ebola patients, the chances of getting Ebola is nearly zero.
2. Traveling to African countries outside of the three countries mentioned is safe. I leave for East Africa next week. The outbreak zone is approximately 3,500 miles from East Africa. To put this in perspective, San Francisco to New York is 2,500 miles.
3. The population of Africa is more than one billion people. The number of those with Ebola (confirmed and unconfirmed) is estimated to be between 10,000 and 20,000.
4. Because of the recent civil wars and poor infrastructure, those countries most affected are unable to cope with an epidemic of this magnitude. Sierra Leone and Liberia were making headway in developing their economies until now. The long-term tragedy will affect the area for at least a decade.
5. Which country has had the greatest success in combatting Ebola? That would be Nigeria. It acted quickly and decisively when a man arriving from Liberia collapsed on the airport tarmac. While people died, a crisis was averted due to the preparedness of the health care workers and government officials. Africa still has a long way to go in regard to providing health care for its people . . . but Africa is Rising.
6. African countries are taking measures to ensure that Ebola is not exported to their countries. They are all well aware of the potential disaster a serious outbreak could have on their populations and economy.
7. Those considering travel non-affected Africa have little to fear. East Africa is almost twice the distance from New York to San Francisco away from the area.
ICM would not advise anyone to travel to the infected zone who is not a professional health worker. There are still missionaries working in these countries, but they are professionals who are taking great care in helping. If you have plans for travel to Africa outside of these zones, you do not need to change your plans. There is little risk.
Ebola is scary. It is highly contagious and so far has proven quite deadly. It is not to be taken lightly. At the same time the world is coming to grips with it. It is in the process of being contained. Those countries most affected will struggle for years to get back on track. We can join in praying for those directly and indirectly involved with this devastating virus. But we do not need to change our plans or walk in fear of contracting Ebola. The flu kills more than 20,000 people a year in the U.S. Ebola has killed one in the U.S. While not exactly comforting, it does give perspective. Please pray for our Liberia representative, Daniel McGhee, as he ministers to many and for the increased opportunity to share the hope found in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Great Physician.
Phil Walker, ICM