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Just how dangerous is it to travel during the Ebola outbreak?

Cases of Ebola have been popping up within the United States, but is it time to hunker down and stay away from air travel until the worst is over?

A recent poll shows half of Americans are so freaked out about Ebola that they are willing to limit their travel. The poll was conducted by Reuters/Ipsos and surveyed 1,577 adult Americans, and it reveals a shocking 45 percent of respondents are avoiding international air travel out of fear of contracting Ebola.

Ebola transmission

Photo credit: CDC

Is it safe to get on a commercial airliner? How about the subway or a taxi? While officials aren’t making any 100 percent guarantees, the odds of contracting Ebola on your next outing are incredibly slim.

The CDC recommends limiting all nonessential travel to West Africa, including Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and recommends “enhanced” precautions when traveling to The Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. While this won’t force most of us to cancel our Christmas plans, be aware of those you come into contact with who might have recently been in West Africa, especially health care workers, who are most at risk for contracting Ebola.

The New York City doctor, for instance, reportedly just returned from Liberia, where he had been working for Doctors Without Borders.

Enhanced screening for travelers from West Africa has been implemented at five U.S. airports, including New York’s JFK, which, according to the CDC, receives half of all passengers from the countries of concern for Ebola. Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty International, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta International have also implemented enhanced Ebola screening protocol.

Ebola outbreak infographic

Photo credit: CDC

“We work to continuously increase the safety of Americans,” said CDC director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We believe these new measures will further protect the health of Americans, understanding that nothing we can do will get us to absolute zero risk until we end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.”

Ebola image

Photo credit: CDC

While that’s not super reassuring, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Skip your next trip to West Africa unless it’s absolutely essential
  2. Wash your hands frequently, especially in public places like airports and on airplanes
  3. Ebola can pass through tiny cuts in your skin, so cover up as much as possible when traveling to minimize incidental exposure
  4. Just assume every bodily fluid is carrying the Ebola virus while traveling
  5. You can also opt for a surgical mask, a trend rapper and entrepreneur Cam’ron is trying to capitalize on with his own line of customized surgical masks. But remember, Ebola isn’t spread through the air, so it might be more fashion statement than preventative

Learn more about the risk of contracting Ebola during air travel in this report from CBS news.

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