Ebola and International Assignments
Ebola prevention is necessary to any employee on an international assignment in West Africa. Organisations such as the CDC have recommended the cease of all non-essential travel to affected areas such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. But what happens when the travel is essential?
With more than 3,850 people dying from the disease in 2014, the current Ebola outbreak is the deadliest yet, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) even going so far as to declare an international health emergency. If you can avoid sending employees on international assignment to these areas, it is well recommended. Yet, especially if your employees are delivering any form of humanitarian or medical aid to Ebola affected areas, this isn’t always possible. Thankfully the disease isn’t airborne, which makes its avoidance easier. Instead it is spread via direct contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood or sweat or a contaminated environment. It is still possible to contract the virus from a person who has died of Ebola, so even at funerals and burials proper precautions must be taken.
There are many ways to minimize the risk of infection, most importantly avoiding direct contact with those already sick for whom symptoms involve fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Yet, before your employee even arrives in West Africa, they should check the details of any health insurance policy to ensure that, in the event they do become ill or need emergency medical evacuation, they are adequately covered.
For Ebola prevention while on an international assignment your employee should avoid all contact with blood and bodily fluids, whether directly or with items that may have come into contact with such fluids, such as syringes. Similarly they should avoid all facilities where those infected are being treated – information on the locations of these can be found by contacting the relevant embassy. As well as just contact with humans, contact with animals such as monkeys or bats, or raw meat or bush meat, should also be avoided since this is where the disease originates.
Upon returning to their home country, assignees must be prepared to undergo some sort of screening process and then further monitoring to ensure they haven’t contracted Ebola. If there is any doubt in their health then they must seek medical care immediately and limit all contact with other people.
Ultimately there can be nothing short of caution for employees embarking on international assignments in West Africa. The risk of Ebola is prominent, but can be minimized. If travel to these areas can be avoided at all, then it should be.