This is the number ONE question you all have been asking since we heard about the first travel-associated case of Ebola to be diagnosed in America on Sept. 30th, 2014. Now, fear of the disease is running rampart through the Caribbean. Full disclosure- I had fears myself especially since we travel to the Caribbean about 10 times a year.
To be clear, there’s NO BAN in the Caribbean from U.S. travelers. The fear most Americans have is visiting an Island Country without a ban, then sharing a hotel, pool, or a buffet with someone possibly exposed to Ebola coming from West Africa. One reason for the level of fear in the Caribbean for placing these bans is the rapid spread of chikungunya – a painful viral disease also of African origin which first reached the Caribbean last December 2013. Some islands have recorded cases in the tens of thousands. Others have stopped counting all together. The difference is, chikungunya is mosquito borne. Once insects are infected, it is hard to stop it. However, Ebola will not spread that way in the Caribbean Islands.
Trinidad, Tobago, St Kitts-Nevis, St Vincent, St Lucia, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana and Belize banned all travel from African countries with an Ebola outbreak.
The Dominican Republic is also currently restricting travelers from West African nations dealing with Ebola outbreaks. Dominican Health Minister Altagracia Guzman says the ban applies to travelers who have been in those countries in the past 30 days. She announced Tuesday that authorities will remain vigilant at airports, seaports and the border it shares with Haiti.
The Turks and Caicos government has not issued ANY official restrictions, but it announced that immigration and health officials will put in quarantine any person coming from West Africa.
Currently, Barbados has no travel ban. However, their government wants to open an isolation center. Catholic School Parents are concerned about the location of the center and they’re campaigning furiously against it, especially if it’s near their students’ schools.
Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, was founded by former slaves from British colonies in the Americas. Many of its people speak Krio, which is closely related to English-based Caribbean creoles. In the English-speaking Caribbean, many people like to talk warmly of their African roots. But in the current crisis, practical help has come instead from Spanish-speaking Cuba, which has sent 165 health workers to Sierra Leone, with more on the way to Guinea and Liberia. Cuba is a Leader in Medicine, Treatment, Prevention, and Disease Control – it’s about time for the WORLD to recognize that. Caribbean Cruise Travel has been affected too! A Dallas hospital lab supervisor was on a Caribbean cruise, and there was a fear that the lab supervisor might possibly have handled fluid samples from Thomas Duncan. Thomas Duncan (Liberian-American) died from Ebola on October 12th. The American health authorities wanted her home for closer monitoring. When the ship made its call in Belize, she and her travelling companion stayed on board, in voluntary quarantine. Needless to say, other tourists were very nervous. The cruise ship skipped its next call, which was Mexico (actually Mexico said, “Aqui no!”) and set course for Galveston, Texas. A helicopter picked up a blood sample, it tested negative (NO EBOLA) and everyone was able to breathe again – for now!
“How do you become infected with Ebola?” is another question you guys have been asking. Here it is, straight from the Centers of Diseases Control and Prevention: Ebola is not spread through the air, by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (e.g., humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus. Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids.
As long as you stay abreast the latest news (real news, not fear-based propaganda) and follow safety travel procedures we should be okay. For more info, please click here Centers for Disease Control and Prevention