Health Officials Try to Quell Fear of Ebola Spreading by Air Travel
GENEVA — The World Health Organization on Thursday swiftly sought to quell fears that international air travel could become a conduit for spreading the deadly Ebola virus from Africa around the globe, emphasizing that such a risk was low.
The organization acted after Korean Airlines suspended flights to Kenya, which is not among the four West African countries affected by Ebola — Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria — but is a major air transit hub that serves those nations. A message on the organization’s Twitter account said: “W.H.O. disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa. Hard to save lives if we & other health workers cannot get in.”
But in another sign of spreading international concern, the State Department announced
that it had ordered family members of staff members at the United
States Embassy in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, to leave the
country. Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said it had taken
the step at the recommendation of the department’s medical office “out
of an abundance of caution.”
At a hastily convened news conference in Geneva, where the World Health Organization is based, Isabelle Nuttall, its director of global responses, repeated earlier advice that “air travel even from Ebola-affected countries is low-risk for Ebola transmission.” Moreover, she said, the risk is low even for countries or airports that have high volumes of air travel to nations affected by the outbreak.