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Recommendations about International Travel for Education Purposes and the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

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Purpose

These recommendations are for students, faculty, and staff participating in study abroad programs, research, foreign exchange, or other international travel for education purposes. These recommendations provide information on how this type of travel might be affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and how these groups can protect themselves from Ebola. Check CDC's 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa page for the most current outbreak information.

Key points

  • Avoid all travel, including for education purposes, to Guinea and Sierra Leone.
  • CDC no longer recommends US residents avoid nonessential travel to Liberia. However, CDC recommends that US residents practice enhanced precautions when traveling to Liberia.
    • If you are traveling to one of these countries:
      • Visit CDC’s travel health notices page and destination-specific pages for up-to-date health information about your destination.
      • Be aware of public health actions such as exit screening, entry screening, and symptom monitoring that may apply to you if you’ve been in one of the countries affected by Ebola.
  • At this time, there is no increased risk of Ebola exposure in other countries in the West African region where Ebola cases have not been reported. There is also no increased risk of Ebola in countries that have previously reported cases of Ebola but have been declared Ebola-free, such as Nigeria and Spain.

Recommendations for international travel for education purposes

Advice for determining travel plans

  • CDC is recommending that U.S. residents avoid nonessential travel, which includes travel for education purposes, to Guinea and Sierra Leone because of widespread Ebola transmission.
  • It is difficult to predict how long it will take to get the outbreak under control. Study abroad programs, researchers, and colleges and universities should consider the likelihood that the outbreak could continue for months and that CDC’s recommendation to avoid non-essential travel may remain in place for as long as the outbreak lasts.
  • Since March 2014, there has been an outbreak of Ebola in Liberia; however, since March 27, 2015 there have been no new cases of Ebola identified in the country, and CDC has changed the travel notice to a Level 2, Alert. Because there is still a small possibility of reintroduction of Ebola in Liberia, CDC does recommend that US residents practice enhanced precautions when traveling to the country. Travelers should also be aware that getting medical care in Liberia may be difficult. Certain travelers, such as senior citizens, people with underlying illnesses, and people with weakened immune systems, should consider postponing travel.
  • Visit CDC's 2014 Ebola Outbreak in West Africa page for the most current outbreak information to inform decisions about international travel for education purposes.
  • The healthcare systems of countries where the Ebola outbreak is occurring are severely strained. If you get sick while visiting one of the countries,
    • Resources may not be available if you need routine emergency care.
    • Visiting healthcare settings for routine emergency care could put you at risk of coming into contact with people who are sick with Ebola.
  • At this time, there is no increased risk of Ebola exposure in other countries in the West African region where Ebola cases have not been reported. There is also no increased risk of Ebola in countries that have previously reported cases of Ebola but have been declared Ebola-free, such as Nigeria and Spain.

Travel health advice

Pre-Travel

Caring for Your Emotional Wellbeing

It may be stressful to work or study in a country with an Ebola outbreak. There are practical steps you can take to help reduce stress.

Before Travel
  • Learn about Ebola and the destination country to prepare for differences in culture and environment. If you can, talk to someone who’s been there so you know what to expect.
  • Find out about any psychological or social support offered by your school and how to connect with those resources while overseas.
During Travel
  • Pay attention to your body’s signs of stress-- like feeling scared, anxious or sad, or having nightmares or problems sleeping.
  • To reduce and manage stress:
    • Keep a regular sleep schedule, and find time to relax when you can.
    • Eat a healthy diet, and exercise when you can.
    • Manage your workload as best you can by setting realistic tasks and priorities.
    • Keep in touch with friends or loved ones back home.
After Travel
  • Take time off to rest, spend time with those you love, and return to your daily routine.
  • If you feel sad or anxious after returning home, you may wish to seek counseling.

If you are traveling to a country with an Ebola outbreak for any reason, be well-informed and prepared.

  • Visit CDC’s travel health notices page and destination-specific pages for up-to-date health information about your destination
  • See a travel medicine provider to discuss health recommendations based on your medical history and travel plans.
  • Make a plan for where to get medical care and what to do if you have an unprotected exposure to Ebola or any other illness. The U.S. embassy in the country where you are going can help you locate medical services or arrange travel.
    • People who have an unprotected exposure to Ebola are not allowed to travel by commercial airplane. They need to arrange travel by private chartered airplane if returning to the United States during the 21 days after being exposed.
  • Check your health insurance plan to ensure you are covered for health care abroad if you get sick (either with Ebola or another illness) or injured. CDC recommends purchasing travel health insurance and medical evacuation insurance if you are not fully covered by your personal health insurance or school-issued plans.
  • Register with the U.S. embassy in your destination country through the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
During travel

If you are traveling to Guinea, Liberia, or Sierra Leone, become familiar with Ebola symptoms, prevention recommendations, and know what to do if you or someone participating in your program is exposed or becomes sick. Seek medical care immediately if you develop fever (subjective fever or measured temperature ≥100.4°F / 38°C) or other possible Ebola symptoms such as severe headache, fatigue (feeling very tired), muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

For more information, see the travel health notice for your destination.

Returning to the United States

See CDC’s Screening and Monitoring Travelers to Prevent the Spread of Ebola fact sheet for information about exit screening in some West African countries with Ebola outbreaks and entry screening in other countries including the United States. You can also learn more about how travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are being connected with a health department after they arrive in the United States to monitor their health for Ebola symptoms.   

Going back to school or work

Students, faculty, and staff who have been in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone go through enhanced entry screening and are monitored for 21 days by U.S. public health workers. For this reason, if they do not have symptoms of Ebola, they pose no increased risk to the community.

Most students, faculty, and staff should be able to go about their daily activities, such as being on campus and attending class. However, based on their level of possible exposure to Ebola, they may be asked by public health workers to limit their travel and public activities. If they are allowed to travel, they should discuss any travel plans with the state or local health department before they travel during their 21-day monitoring period.

  • Students: Talk with your teachers and administrators about how to complete assignments if you cannot attend class during the 21-day monitoring period. Also, talk with college or university administrators about policies for staying in resident housing during the monitoring period.
  • Faculty and staff: Talk with your employer about telework options, if necessary.

Many people are afraid of Ebola because they do not understand how the disease spreads. Remind colleagues and friends that:

  • People who recently traveled to West Africa don’t put others at risk if they don’t have Ebola symptoms.
  • People who are being actively monitored may have had some risk of exposure and are being watched for symptoms. It doesn’t mean they are contagious.
  • People who have no symptoms after 21 days don’t have Ebola and are no risk to others.

See CDC’s fact sheet and questions and answers about the Monitoring Symptoms and Controlling Movement Guidelines to learn more.

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