It takes only 3 Ebola travelers to fly monthly on an international flight in West Africa to potentially spread the deadly virus to other countries.
Ebola researchers at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research used a model to predict their findings, according to Examiner. The model was based on flights from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. It suggests that up to 3 Ebola travelers can fly monthly to spread the virus.
Scientists based their model on scheduled flights for September 1 to December 31, 2014, historic flight itineraries from 2013, and surveillance numbers from the current outbreak. The results were published in The Lancet this week. Study author Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a specialist in infectious diseases and tropical medicine at the University of Toronto, wrote about the risks.
“We understand there could be global risks associated with the current outbreak … We wanted to understand what those risks were.”
Only 3 Ebola travelers to fly monthly was around what Bogoch was expecting. Considering the number of people living in these West African countries, he says, the prevalence of the disease is still relatively low. Guinea, for example, has around 11.4 million people, and just over 1,500 recorded cases of Ebola.
Of the approximately 500,000 travelers who flew out of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2013, more than half flew to one of five countries: Ghana, Senegal, the United Kingdom, France and Gambia, according to Softpedia News. The study authors say the likelihood of someone traveling to the United Kingdom or France with Ebola is about eight times higher than the likelihood of someone traveling to the United States with the disease.
The study authors note that the majority of people flying out of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are traveling to other low- or middle-income countries. As one hospital in the United States has had some trouble preventing transmission, experts question whether less-equipped nations will be able to stop the virus.
If 3 Ebola travelers fly monthly, there’s also the question about airport screening. An airline passenger was being evaluated at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey Tuesday due to Ebola concerns, reports CBS News. Even with proper screening, someone can be infected with Ebola for up to 21 days before becoming symptomatic.