5 Ways to Minimize Your Risk of Catching Ebola on the Road

Eye MaskTraveling can be scary—especially when there is a major health scare on everyone’s minds. The good news is that Ebola is difficult to catch, as The New York Times explains:

“Ebola spreads through direct contact with body fluids. If an infected person’s blood or vomit gets in another person’s eyes, nose or mouth, the virus may be transmitted. Although Ebola does not cause respiratory problems, a cough from a sick person could infect someone who has been sprayed with saliva. Because of that, being within three feet of a patient for a prolonged time without protective clothing is considered to be direct contact.

The virus can survive for several hours on surfaces, so any object contaminated with bodily fluids may spread the disease. According to the C.D.C., the virus can survive for a few hours on dry surfaces like doorknobs and countertops and can survive for several days in puddles or other collections of body fluid. Bleach solutions can kill it.

In the current outbreak, most new cases are occurring among people who have been taking care of sick relatives or who have prepared an infected body for burial. Health care workers are at high risk. Symptoms usually begin about eight to 10 days after exposure to the virus, but can appear as late as 21 days after exposure.”

Now that you know it’s not that easy to catch and you shouldn’t be paranoid when you travel, the five tips below should help you and everyone be prepared and minimize the risk:

5 ways to minimize your risk of catching Ebola while on the road:

  1. Don’t spread your germs: If you’re sick, don’t go out. No one wants to be around a sick person – especially during this Ebola outbreak. Did you see that yesterday an American Airlines flight made an emergency landing to offload a vomiting female passenger in Texas amid fears she has Ebola … despite not having been in Africa? So, do everyone a favor, including yourself, and STAY HOME! If you have to go to work or catch a flight, then wash your hands more than usual, use hand sanitizer and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  2. Splurge on an upgrade: This is the time you want to be as far away from other travelers as possible so either buy a first class ticket or if funds are limited try and score a cheap last minute upgrade to first/business class or even to premium economy. The more space and less people you can be around the better your chances.
  3. Wear a mask: In Japan everyone wears a surgical mask when they’re sick. Why can’t we bring that tradition to America or, better yet, the rest of the world? Who cares if people think you look like a freak? As you can see from the photo above, I put on my mask recently not because I was sick but because the passenger next to me was and was coughing without covering his mouth. After I put on my mask and gave him my “crazy eyes” look, he got the hint. If you don’t want to look like a freak, get a Scough, which has a mask built in a scarf or just put a scarf around your mask or a get a designer mask. But as reader@LATraveler so eloquently wrote in the comments section below to prevent Ebola your mask will need to be well-fitted and N-95 rated.
  4. Travel insurance: Before you leave, check to see if your health insurance covers you during your travels (especially international). If not, buy travel insurance. It’s not expensive and provides great piece of mind. I use InsureMyTrip.com, which lets you call or book the best plan for a particular trip online using one of their 24-hour travel insurance brokers. Note: Medical evacuation services draw line at flying out Ebola patients.
  5. Change your plane ticket: Unless you buy a refundable ticket (most people don’t, including me), it’s difficult to make changes to it without getting slapped with a fee (except with Southwest Airlines). I think airlines should make an exception for people who are sick because the metal tube just makes them sicker and spreads their germs to others. But for now they don’t, so we have to deal with it or figure out ways around it—and there are ways around it. Calling the airline won’t help (usually). The best way to change your ticket without a fee is to go to the airport and speak to an agent or their supervisor. I know it’s a pain but it often works. Just tell the agent you aren’t feeling well and would like to see if you can fly another time. More often than not they will help you do it.

I hope you find these tips to be helpful. Let me know what works for you or if I missed anything, and here’s to happy, healthy and safe travels!

For more information check out my Ebola Travel Resource Page.

Johnny Jet

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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

16 Comments on "5 Ways to Minimize Your Risk of Catching Ebola on the Road"

  1. Excellent advice!!!

  2. I wipe my tray tables down before use with hand sanitizer and a napkin just as a general principle. The ebola advice is that bleach solution kills ebola virus, but hand sanitizer only has alchohol, not bleach. Would it be better to pack Clorox wipes, and could you get them through security?

  3. Where did get the blue mask? I want one!

    • It wasn’t a surgical mask. It was an eye mask and you can get them here https://www.johnnyjet.com/2013/10/how-to-sleep-on-a-plane/

      • The designer masks are cool. And turn what might otherwise be a stigma into something much more playful. Great stuff. Like others I wish more cultures – especially ours (American) – would follow the Japanese masking habits. Given today’s realities it is a simple courtesy. So why don’t the airlines provide free cough masks as a service? With little graphics of planes or clouds on them. Or Holiday themes. Or Mick Jagger lips? Masks with the airline logo on it could be a marketing collateral. Seems cheap enough for positive marketing value.

      • THIS IS IRRESPONSIBLE!! The title states “5 Ways to Minimize Your Risk of Catching Ebola…” Use of antibacterial wipes/solution is always good travel advice but is not going to help you if you are exposed to Ebola. And it is misleading to even list wearing a surgical mask as the 3rd way to “minimize risk of getting Ebola”. A properly fitted N-95 surgical mask may help keep YOU from spreading YOUR germs, but will do nothing to help you from getting germs from others. Also, unless the mask well-fitted and N-95 rated, it’s unlikely to even do that. Worse, the Scroughs, cute as they are, look like they rely on carbon filters so while they may be effective at keeping the wearer from inhaling certain large pollutant particulates, they will not protect against microscopic bacteria or viruses. Had your title been “5 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling and Keep from Spreading Your Own Germs” your article would be OK. Otherwise, there’s enough misinformation about Ebola floating around.

        • Thanks for the comment. I took out the part about antibacterial wipes and added the N-95 rated mask part.

          • Hi Johnny,

            I did not write “to prevent Ebola your mask will need to be well-fitted and N-95 rated.” I wrote: To keep from spreading your own germs, your mask needs to be well-fitted and N-95 rated. Wearing a mask is NOT going to help anyone from getting germs from other people and it will certainly NOT DO ANYTHING as far as protecting you from Ebola.

  4. Handsome, even with an eye mask!

  5. Good tips! We don’t leave home without the antibacterial travel-size hand wipes. One in each kid’s backpack, etc. It’s amazing how often the airplane trays are already sticky, and kids love to get their hands on everything! Sometimes we start a flight with a “cleaning party” at our seats. One more thing to keep the kids busy on the plane!

    • We’re leaving for a cruise in 7 days and purchased packets of Clorox wipes. When we arrive in our cabin, we immediately wipe down door knobs, TV remotes, phone, lights, then on to the bathroom. We also use them if we eat in the buffet on the table and chair we are sitting at. We haven’t caught noro virus yet despite on one cruise it was rampant. Above all else, trip insurance! We’ve been on enough cruises and saw others get sick or removed from the ship and none had trip insurance. You’re playing with fire if you don’t have it. Hope you have some deep pockets when you’re presented with the medical bills!

  6. I enjoy your blog, but what you are describing here is ritualistic behavior that won’t materially mitigate the risk of an adverse outcome should you come close to the ebola virus. Just ask the Texas nurses.

  7. Great advice, Johnny, and they’re easy to follow! Let’s hope they get it under control soon.

  8. I agree there is a lot of misinformation out there. I just returned from Cozumel and was there the day the Mexican government denied docking for the cruise ship carrying the exposed nurse and her husband. I thought that was a wise, though economically-harmful decision. Earlier in Belize, the same ship was allowed to dock, and even though the nurse and her husband were not allowed to disembark, all the other passengers were. Hum … reckless or sensible? I don’t think we know yet.

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