The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the deadly Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a global emergency. This outbreak started in August 2018 is the second-largest in history, and has infected more than 2,500 people.
Can I cancel my trip? What if I don’t want to go? What if I get Ebola overseas?
These are the types of questions we get every day from concerned travelers. At InsureMyTrip, the health and safety of travelers is our primary concern. We recognize the need to educate travelers about this topic and explain what travel insurance benefits may provide the maximum safeguard and protection available.
What is Ebola?
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is a rare but severe disease that can be carried in people and nonhuman primates. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with:
- Bodily fluids of a person who is sick, has died or has recovered from Ebola
- Object contaminated with body fluids from a person sick with Ebola
- Infected fruitbats or nonhuman primates
Someone who contracts Ebola will not show signs or symptoms right away, and the disease cannot spread until after an infected person has developed symptoms of the illness.
Symptoms for Ebola Virus Disease may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after contact. Many common illnesses can have the same symptoms as Ebola, and diagnosing the disease can be difficult.
How Can Travelers Protect Themselves?
In the United States, Ebola is a very rare disease. The only cases of Ebola within the U.S. were first contracted in other countries and later spread via human to human transmission.
Travelers visiting an affected area should avoid coming in contact with blood and bodily fluids. This includes any items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids such as clothing, bed linens, needles, or medical equipment. The CDC also suggests avoiding funeral or burial rituals that require the handling of the body.
Presently, there are no FDA approved vaccines to prevent the Ebola virus. An experimental vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV is currently not commercially licensed but has so far been shown to be safe and protective against the Ebola Virus. Research for the vaccine is ongoing, and the CDC expects FDA licensure in 2019.
A few travel insurance policies offer travelers the option to cancel a trip in the event the CDC issues a travel warning to their destination prior to departure. Trip cancellation coverage is available provided there were no CDC issued warnings for their destination before purchasing the policy.
This coverage protects pre-paid non-refundable expenses, including penalties, fees, and other costs that may be incurred due to cancellation. To be eligible for these benefits, the warning must be in effect during your dates of travel.
For assistance finding the right plan with this coverage, we strongly encourage you to call our licensed travel insurance agents at 1-800-487-4722.
What if the airline cancels due to an outbreak of Ebola or if the flight has to be quarantined?
Each airline may handle this process differently. Typically, the airline would reimburse a traveler or try to book them on an alternative flight if possible.
Comprehensive plans do offer coverage for quarantine, but each company writes the coverage differently, so be sure to call or check the certificate for the exact language.
What if I am nervous about going on the trip and want to cancel?
There is an optional travel insurance benefit called Cancel for Any Reason that allows travelers to cancel a trip for any reason, including concern over the Ebola outbreak. The CFAR benefit allows travelers to cancel a trip for any reason and receive reimbursement of up to 75% of their insured trip cost.
To add CFAR coverage to your policy, you’ll need to match specific eligibility requirements – you can find them at the InsureMyTrip website.
Your plan may cover you if you or someone traveling with you, as long as they are named on the policy, contracts Ebola while on the trip and requires medical attention.
Travel insurance can help provide coverage for unforeseen illnesses or injuries that occur while you are on your trip.
If the Ebola Virus is contracted while on your covered trip, your insurance provider would coordinate with the CDC to ensure you are receiving adequate treatment. However, each insurance company is handling this situation on a case by case basis.
Emergency Medical Evacuation
At this time, only the CDC has appropriate transportation means to evacuate someone who has contracted the Ebola Virus. Travel insurance may provide assistance with health care and emergency transportation cost.
If you are traveling to an area of the world that is experiencing an outbreak, be sure to look into travel medical coverage and medical evacuation coverage specifically.
We always recommend traveling safely and with as much knowledge as possible. Knowing the area of the world to which you are visiting and reviewing any CDC travel notices are a great place to start. Consider purchasing travel insurance that will cover you for any possibility that may fit your situation.