Ebola outbreak in west Africa

Latest update

This Bulletin was last issued on Wednesday, 15 April 2015.   It contains updated information on case numbers and travel restrictions in affected countries.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has led to more than 10,000 deaths. This is the most serious outbreak of EVD in recorded history.

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 and relevant travel advisory updates to receive an email notification each time these are updated.

We currently advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. If you choose to travel to, or remain in these countries, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so that we can contact you or your family in an emergency.

About Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

The Zaire strain of 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 approximately 60% according to the World Health Organization. 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, however prompt and high-quality supportive care can be life-saving. A number of providers are currently working on vaccines for EVD, with some advancing to in-country clinical trials, however their effectiveness is yet to be determined.

The virus is introduced into the human population through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of infected animals (often through the hunting or preparation of “bushmeat”). Human to human transmission then occurs through direct contact to broken skin or mucous membranes with the body fluids of an infected person, including blood, faeces and sweat. Transmission can also occur through direct contact with the body or body fluids 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 WHO has released an Ebola Response Roadmap intended to guide and coordinate the international response to the EVD outbreak in west Africa.

Travel advice

The Australian Government advises Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where there is ongoing transmission of EVD. This reflects the seriousness of the outbreak, the challenges in containing it, the limited emergency care options, and travel restrictions which have significantly reduced freedom of movement in the region.

Sporadic demonstrations and local disturbances have been reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone related to the EVD outbreak.. There have been violent incidents specifically targeting healthcare workers. The United Nations Security Council has declared that the EVD outbreak is a threat to international peace and security.

Australians in EVD affected countries will find it difficult and costly to leave Africa. Departure options from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are limited. Only a small number of commercial airlines continue to operate out of these countries and many land borders are closed. Additionally, many countries in Africa, including the major travel hubs of Kenya and South Africa, have banned entry to travellers who have been in EVD affected countries.

Should you decide to travel to these countries despite our advice, we strongly recommend that you register your travel plans with us, and subscribe to free bulletin and travel advice updates so we can keep you informed.

You should 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 the body fluids of someone with EVD. Avoid contact with wild animals and do not eat or handle raw or undercooked animal products, such as blood and meat. Know the symptoms of EVD and see a healthcare provider immediately if you feel unwell, or if any EVD symptoms develop.

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. You should also be aware that non-EVD related medical evacuations from EVD affected countries will be substantially more complicated than usual due to the restrictions on travel from EVD affected countries.

If you choose to remain in the region for work, you should ensure that your employer has contingency plans for treatment or evacuation should you show symptoms of the disease. If, despite our advice, you are considering undertaking independent travel, you should ensure that your travel insurance will cover healthcare and/or medical evacuation for EVD and any other illnesses.

For details on affected areas, including maps, check the latest situation reports on the WHO website.

Limits to consular assistance: The Australian Government has limited capacity to provide consular assistance in these circumstances. Medical evacuations for any potential EVD patient – and particularly symptomatic EVD patients - will be extremely difficult to conduct. Australia does not have a diplomatic or consular mission in Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia and the Australian High Commission in Accra, Ghana has consular responsibility for these countries. Australian High Commission personnel have deferred non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as a result of the EVD outbreak.

Australian embassies and high commissions elsewhere in Africa continue to operate as normal.

Travel restrictions and preventative measures

Travel restrictions are in place in many countries as a result of the EVD outbreak. Authorities in a number of countries have implemented flight bans and a number of carriers have suspended flights into Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Some land borders have been closed.

Health screening is being undertaken at a number of airports worldwide. Travellers from west Africa with fever or EVD-like symptoms may be subject to quarantine or denied entry or exit from certain countries. If you choose to travel to west Africa, you should consider the possible implications of this health screening should you become unwell.

Further restrictions may be put in place with little or no notice. Check the country specific travel advice for your destination, monitor the media closely and before you travel, confirm that borders remain open and check with your carrier for the most up to date information.

Countries with ongoing transmission of EVD

Guinea: Health screenings are in place at border crossings. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are subject to quarantine or denied entry or exit from the country. Guinea’s border with Liberia is currently closed, however this can change at short notice. Borders with other countries are open. Only a small number of carriers are continuing to operate commercial flights.

Sierra Leone: The state of emergency was lifted in January, however military personnel enforced a second lockdown in March. Health screenings are in place at border crossings. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or denied entry or exit from the country. While Sierra Leone has not closed its borders, a number of countries have closed their borders to people leaving Sierra Leone. Only a small number of carriers are continuing to operate commercial flights.

Liberia: Liberian authorities have put in place a range of measures to combat the spread of the disease including imposing restrictions on travel within the country. Local emergency measures may change without warning. Travellers with fever or EVD-like symptoms are being subject to quarantine or being denied entry or exit from the country. Only a small number of carriers are continuing to operate commercial flights. Liberia has re-opened all of its land borders.

Countries with initial cases, localised transmission or contained outbreaks of EVD

Six countries (Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States of America) have reported a case or cases imported from a country with ongoing transmission. The outbreaks in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Spain have been declared over.

An EVD outbreak in Equateur Province in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was a separate lineage of EVD from the west Africa outbreak, has been declared over.

African travel hubs and neighbouring countries

Cote d’Ivoire: The borders with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have reopened and Air Cote d’Ivoire has recommenced flights to these countries.

Ethiopia: Authorities have introduced additional health screening and information requirements for travellers arriving by air and land. Travellers who register a high temperature during screening may be quarantined.

Guinea-Bissau: The border with Guinea has reopened.

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.

Mali: Health screening at airports and land border crossings has been increased.

Nigeria: Health screening measures for passengers arriving and departing are in place at all airports in Nigeria.

Senegal: The land border with Guinea and sea borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have reopened.

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.

The Gambia: Borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia have reopened.

Returning to Australia

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has issued the following fact sheet for travellers: Ebola - how your travel and return to Australian may be affected.

Additional screening measures at Australian international airports

The likelihood of an outbreak of EVD in Australia following an imported case remains very low. However, to further reduce the risk, the government has put in place additional screening measures at Australian international airports in response to EVD.

Australian citizens returning to Australia from Ebola-affected countries will not be prevented by the Australian government from boarding flights for Australia. Australian citizens also cannot be refused entry on arrival in Australia.

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 then notify border protection and biosecurity staff prior to, or on arrival.

Border screening measures apply to all people arriving in Australia, including Australian citizens. To help protect you, your family and other members of the community you will be asked to declare any travel to Ebola-affected countries within the previous 21 days through the ‘travel history card’ that you will be given on the aircraft or cruise ship prior to your arrival.

If you have been in an Ebola affected country a Department of Agriculture biosecurity officer will speak with you to assess your possible risk of exposure to Ebola and provide you with information or arrange help if you feel unwell. This process will also involve the officer taking your temperature using a non-touch temperature device.

If your temperature is above 37.5 degrees Celsius, or you are found to present a risk because of your recent travel history, you will need to undergo a health assessment, performed by a public health official, before you are cleared to leave the airport.

All passengers, regardless of travel history, will be given an EVD information card with contact details for the Ebola Traveller’s Hotline. This hotline will assess and refer individuals as required to state and territory public health officials on a 24-hour basis and you should call immediately if you develop any symptoms within 21 days of leaving an affected country. The number for the Ebola Traveller’s Hotline is 1800 186 815.

You may also wish to check with the relevant health authorities in your state if any state-based restrictions apply.

For more information, visit the Department of Health website, Department of Agriculture website and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

Additional resources

World Health Organization:

Department of Health:

Department of Immigration and Border Protection:

Department of Agriculture:

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.