The Ebola outbreak: Is it safe to travel?

The outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa has struck fear into visitors to the region. The disease has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, so travelers need to understand just how the virus spreads.

Ebola is not an airborne illness like SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which spreads easily in contained spaces, including subways and airplanes, and whose global outbreak in 2003 actually posed a bigger threat to travelers.

In contrast, Ebola spreads only through contact with bodily fluids, including saliva, blood, vomit and even sweat. So it is much easier to contain, and outbreaks have typically been limited to rural areas.

But Ebola is much deadlier than SARS, so people should not come into direct contact with anyone who might be infected or with anything an infected person might have handled. Travelers should also avoid health care workers who have been working to contain the disease.