South Africa warns against travel to South Africa and southern Africa

Written by By Claire Milne, CNN A university in South Africa and one in Botswana are warning students against traveling to Rwanda and other parts of southern Africa by land, despite the reduced risk…

South Africa warns against travel to South Africa and southern Africa

Written by By Claire Milne, CNN

A university in South Africa and one in Botswana are warning students against traveling to Rwanda and other parts of southern Africa by land, despite the reduced risk of Ebola-like viruses such as Marburg and Lassa.

South Africa’s University of Stellenbosch, part of which is located in the province of Gauteng, announced in a joint statement with its Botswana counterpart that visitors could not travel through their countries on foot or by bicycle, as they could be at risk of Ebola if Ebola reached Southern Africa by way of Sudan or Angola.

The authorities warned all students who were not fully informed of the risk of travel should not take part in their regular school activities in the region.

The government of South Africa also put out a statement on the same subject, cautioning against visits by students in mountain climbing, trekking and other outdoor sports.

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Randy Priestley, a professor of epidemiology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, told CNN that while Marburg and Lassa had killed only a handful of people in Africa over the last four decades, that might not be the case for viruses like Ebola.

“Much of Africa’s virus burden is there through a much wider range of pathogens that don’t kill more than a handful of people, such as HIV or TB. But there is one Ebola outbreak every year, with much greater risks,” he said.

It’s essential for Africans to be constantly on the look out for the threat of Ebola, and in terms of risk, the alarm could be raised without scientists or health authorities having a clear idea how close an outbreak will reach.

He said a screening technique on a flight to the Middle East between Uganda and Saudi Arabia in 2017 may have prevented a small outbreak of Lassa fever, which has killed more than 1000 people in recent years.

Reactions to the South African travel warnings took on a national tone, with many in the media using the information to highlight the challenge to tourism faced by southern Africa, where mineral wealth has made the region a tourist destination for the rest of the world.

Stephen Labuschagne, who recently graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand, told CNN he was glad that people are being warned about the dangers of taking risks in this region, but disagrees with the measures taken by the two universities.

“Those measures are unnecessary. They are scaremongering and don’t serve any purpose. Getting information out to South Africans will inform people as to the good things in southern Africa.

“South Africa is blessed with wonderful tourism opportunities in the form of nature and our wildlife but it will only be exploited when there is understanding.”

He added that the risk of people dying from the Marburg virus was small compared to that of catching and spreading HIV or TB.

Not everyone shares his thoughts, however.

“South Africa is a political hotbed in the G8, Africa is behind the rest of the world economically, there is a gross inequality problem and political violence is rife,” writer Yvonne D’Chuma of the Sunday Mail wrote on her personal blog.

“These factors contribute to me hating Africa and everything connected to it.”

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