Ebola outbreak in West Africa

Latest update

This Bulletin was last issued on Saturday, 30 August 2014.   The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen and has led to over 1500 deaths. A small number of cases, including deaths, have been confirmed in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. On 29 August Senegal confirmed its first case of the disease. The outbreak in west Africa is the most serious outbreak of EVD in recorded history.

This travel bulletin was first issued in April 2014. It contains the following information:

  • Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) overview
  • Australian Government advice on travel to affected countries
  • Travel restrictions and preventative measures
    • in affected countries
    • in other African countries
    • airline suspensions
    • international travel hubs
  • Mitigating the risk in Australia
  • Additional resources

This bulletin is updated regularly. We strongly recommend that Australians residing or travelling in Africa, as well as Australian businesses with commercial interests in the region, subscribe to this bulletin to receive an email notification each time it is updated.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) overview

The Ebola virus causes EVD in humans, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. The fatality rate in the current outbreak, however, is closer to 50%. The symptoms of EVD are severe and can include high fever, muscle pain and weakness, headache and sore throat, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and in some cases, internal and external bleeding. There is currently no vaccine to prevent Ebola and no proven safe and effective specific treatment for EVD. Care is largely supportive. The virus is transmitted to humans from infected animals. Human to human transmission then occurs through bodily fluids, including blood, faeces and sweat. Transmission can also occur through direct contact with the body of a deceased EVD patient.

On 8 August 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the current outbreak of EVD in west Africa is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The announcement is intended to bolster efforts in West Africa and garner the international community’s cooperation in containing and reducing this outbreak.

Australian Government advice on travel to affected countries

The Australian Government advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. This reflects the seriousness of the outbreak, the challenges in containing it, the limited emergency care options, and the increasing travel restrictions which have significantly reduced freedom of movement in the region. Given these restrictions we strongly advise you to consider leaving these three countries while limited commercial flights continue to operate.

Australian embassy personnel have deferred travel plans to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a result of the EVD outbreak. We recommend Australian travellers do the same. Areas in these three countries that are affected by the Ebola virus are mentioned in relevant country travel advisories. See also this map to easily identify affected areas. Australian embassies and high commissions elsewhere in Africa, including in Ghana and Nigeria, continue to operate as normal.

Should you decide to travel to these countries despite our recommendations, closely monitor the advice provided by local health authorities and the WHO. Maintain strict standards of hygiene and avoid all direct contact with patients with EVD or unknown illnesses. Avoid contact with any objects that could have been contaminated with bodily fluids. Travellers should also avoid contact with wild animals and should not eat or handle raw or undercooked animal products, such as blood and meat. Know the symptoms of EVD (see the link to the WHO Ebola factsheet below) and see a healthcare provider immediately if any symptoms develop before or after travel. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider and Australian border officials that you have travelled to a region where EVD was present.

You should be aware that medical evacuations for any potential EVD patient will be extremely difficult to conduct. The standards of local emergency health care in affected countries are well below Australian standards. The current outbreak of EVD has overwhelmed many local health facilities and options for obtaining routine or emergency medical care may be severely limited.

In terms of consular assistance, Australian does not have a diplomatic or consular mission in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia. The Australian High Commission in Accra has consular responsibility for these countries. Given the increasingly severe restrictions on travel, the Australian Government will have limited options in providing consular assistance in affected countries. If you are in or considering travelling to affected countries, please contact your travel insurance provider to check the details of your cover, particularly with regard to emergency health care and evacuations.

Travel restrictions and preventative measures

The WHO announcement marking the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern has led to travel restrictions being implemented in many African countries, as well as major travel hubs around the world. Authorities in several countries have implemented flight bans due to the spread of EVD. An increasing number of carriers have indefinitely suspended flights into Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. More disruptions and cancellations should be expected.

Many land borders have been closed. It is likely that more land borders, ports and river crossings will close, with little or no notice.

Health screening is being undertaken at many international airports that have direct flights into the region or that are major air travel hubs. Travellers with fever or Ebola-like symptoms may be subject to quarantine or denied entry or exit from certain countries.

A summary of restrictions is detailed below, based on the latest confirmed advice from foreign governments. If you are planning travel, you should be aware that further restrictions may be put in place with little or no notice. Monitor the media closely and before you travel, confirm that borders remain open and/or check with your carrier for the most up to date information on flight schedules and possible cancellations.

Affected countries

Guinea: Land borders with Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been closed. Health screenings have been introduced at border crossings. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are subject to quarantine or denied entry or exit from the country.

Sierra Leone: Land borders with Guinea and Liberia have been closed. A 60-90 day state of emergency has been imposed, which enables the military to enforce quarantine zones, restrict public movements and limit public gatherings. Health screenings have been introduced at border crossings. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or denied entry or exit from the country.

Liberia: The majority of Liberia’s borders are closed. Health screenings have been introduced at the border crossings that remain open. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or being denied entry or exit from the country. There are road restrictions into and out of the south-eastern region in place. A checkpoint has been established at the boundary between Nimba and Grand Gedeh.

Nigeria: A small number of cases of EVD, including deaths, have now been confirmed in Nigeria. As a measure to control the disease, Nigeria has introduced health screening measures for passengers arriving and departing at all airports in Nigeria.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The government of the DRC has confirmed that an EVD outbreak has occurred in Equateur Province in northern DRC. DRC authorities believe that this is a separate strain of EVD from the west Africa outbreak. Travellers should carefully consider the likely impact on their travel plans of any restrictions on movement that may be imposed in the future.

Senegal: On 29 August Senegal confirmed its first case of the disease. In an effort to restrict the spread of the disease, authorities have closed the land border with Guinea. Sea and air borders are also closed to vessels and aircraft from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Other African countries

Cabo Verde: Travel is restricted into the country for non-resident foreigners who in the last 30 days have been to any of the countries affected by EVD.

Cameroon: All air, sea and land borders with Nigeria have temporarily been closed. Cameroon is using the temporary closure to establish medical teams and detections measures at entry points, including border checkpoints and the international airport.

Cote d’Ivoire: Authorities are refusing entry to all air passengers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Flights have been rerouted accordingly. Land borders with Guinea and Liberia have also reportedly been closed.

Equatorial Guinea: The issuance of visas has been suspended for those travelling from central and west Africa. The national carrier Ceiba Intercontinental has reportedly cancelled all incoming and outgoing flights to/from Sao Tome et Principe, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Benin, Togo, Nigeria and Gabon. In addition, permission for vessels travelling to or from west, central or east Africa to berth or depart from Malabo port has been suspended.

Gabon: All incoming flights from or via countries affected by EVD, including Nigeria, have been cancelled.

Guinea-Bissau: Authorities have closed the land border with Guinea, reinforced maritime patrols and airport controls, and suspended flights to and from affected countries.

Kenya: Entry of passengers travelling from or through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, is suspended, with the exception of health professionals supporting efforts to contain the outbreak and Kenyan citizens.

South Africa: Foreign citizens arriving from EVD affected countries in west Africa will not be allowed to enter South Africa. South African citizens will be allowed to re-enter, but will be subject to screening.

Uganda: Health screening is in place for all travellers from affected west African countries and from the DRC at Entebbe International Airport. An isolation centre has been established at the airport for any suspected EVD cases.

Zambia: The entry of travellers from affected West African countries is banned.

Airline suspensions

We are aware that the following airlines have changed or suspended flights in the west Africa region as a result of the EVD outbreak. Further suspensions may be put in place at short notice. Before travelling by air in Africa, we strongly recommend that you contact your airline for the latest information on service changes that may affect your plans.

  • Kenyan Airways has temporarily suspended flights from Liberia and Sierra Leone into Nairobi.
  • Asky Airlines has suspended flight to and from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
  • Arik Air and Gambia Bird have suspended services to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
  • British Airways has suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone until at least 31 August 2014.
  • Ceiba Intercontinental has suspended flights to west African countries.
  • Emirates Airlines has suspended flights to Guinea.
  • Korean Air has suspended flight to and from Kenya.
  • Royal Air Maroc and Brussels Airlines are still operating but on modified routes and schedules.
  • Delta and Air France continue to operate as normal however Delta is due to cease flying to Monrovia, Liberia at the end of August.

Prevention measures at international travel hubs

Hong Kong: Health screening is in place with isolation centres prepared at a designated hospital.

Taiwan: Standard health screening of all passengers through the international airport. Passengers with journeys originating in west Africa are being issued with cards advising them to call a hotline if they develop certain symptoms.

Mitigating the risk to Australia

The risk to Australia remains very low. To provide further reassurance, the Australian Government will be putting in place banners and electronic messaging at our international airports to raise awareness of the symptoms of EVD. All passengers whose travel originated in affected countries in Africa will have their health checked. Our border protection procedures are robust and sufficient to deal with any threat. Our infection control mechanisms in hospitals are first rate. As part of routine procedures, incoming flights to Australia have on-board announcements, asking passengers who are feeling unwell with fever, chills or sweats to alert a crew member. Crew members will alert border protection and biosecurity staff for follow-up health procedures.

Additional resources

WHO links:

Australian Government Department of Health:

Australian Government Smartraveller travel advice:

While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.