My intentions were to continue to explore the world of French antiques as they transformed through the ages. But in view of the recent ‘Ebola’ developments I thought I’d devote this weeks’ blog to this serious event and how it relates to France.(And to us for that matter) I’ll resume my regular blogs next week.
I just returned from our Fall buying trip in France and just about everyone was talking about ‘Ebola’. Parisians as a whole are a nonchalent people on most matters. Nothing phases them. But Ebola was scaring the daylights out of many of them, particularly as Paris has a vast population of Africans mostly concentrated in the 18th Arrondisement.
In fact, Paris has the largest African population in Europe, so it was only natural that Parisians were frightened. In fact, one of my dealer friends told me her brother ( a surgeon ) living in the south of France told her Paris was destined for an infection in less than three weeks by his calculations. She couldn’t sleep the entire night, telling me the second it arrives she moving to her home in Nancy, where she still maintains a residence.
My closest Parisian friends, Jeff and Helene have two young sons and told me if an outbreak occurred they’d flee to their parents home in Cavalaire sur Mer, (a plus chic community just west of the now too trendy and vastly changed for the worse, St. Tropez).From the sounds of their parents home I’d flee there anytime regardless of Ebola.
In fact, upon returning to Vancouver the customs agents asked me point blank if I was sick, if my dog was sick, had I been to any Ebola infected countries and had I any contact with any Ebola persons. Good for Customs to be proactive, but seriously folks,
I’d heard through sources that this ‘Ebola hysteria’ was completely unwarranted. I decided to research it myself.
True, Ebola is one dangerous virus. But it’s not as easily transmitted as you may think.
I recently came across an article written by a native Parisian who put this whole epidemic in perspective. Also the Wall Street Journal, ( a link presented at the end of this article ) goes into it in depth. ( I’ve subsequently emailed the link to both my friends to ease their panic )
Last week, a humor columnist from the New Yorker magazine penned this headline: “Man Infected With Ebola Misinformation Through Casual Contact With Cable News”.
While the current Ebola viral epidemic is nothing to laugh about, it’s causing a humanitarian disaster in several West African countries and has led to some 3,500 deaths as this went to press. The New Yorker headline makes a salient point about the panic that’s taking hold of many otherwise rational people. Constant news coverage of the crisis and histrionic headlines about risks of the virus getting “out of control” in Europe are helping to feed this panic, even though these sensationalist headlines are designed more to generate clicks and newspaper sales than to accurately reflect what’s happening. Not only is it creating public panic, it’s wreaking havoc to the stock market and even to chocolate producers in Africa. Shame on the media but this is nothing new. I rarely put complete faith in anything I see or read anymore.
In the midst of all this ambient paranoia about Ebola, and particularly in light of a Madrid-based nurse in Spain contracting the disease (a first in Europe), many travellers are feeling uneasy about heading abroad, even in Europe. If you’re travelling to Paris or the rest of France, you may be asking yourself how safe it is to do so. Is Ebola currently more than a very marginal risk in France?
The answer? A very solid no. Here’s why:
There have been zero documented cases of Ebola transmission in France. One French healthcare worker in Liberia did contract the disease, and was successfully treated in France, but there have been no further cases since then. That fact alone should calm any nerves about travelling there.
“But what if some cases have gone undetected?”, you may be asking. The answer? That’s a highly unlikely scenario. Ebola isn’t a viral infection that hides easily. People afflicted with the disease experience symptoms that are exponentially worse than the flu, and are rarely able to care for themselves, so they are unlikely to be roaming the streets or riding the metro. Thankfully, moreover, Ebola isn’t transmissible or contagious until patients begin experiencing symptoms, so it’s impossible to get it from someone who isn’t exhibiting any symptoms.
It’s not an airborne disease. Even if someone had gone undetected and were theoretically riding next to you on a bus or in the metro, Ebola isn’t transmitted through the air. Transmission requires direct contact between the bodily fluids of the sick person, and mucous membranes or blood of the other. This is why the vast majority of those who have contracted Ebola have been health care workers, family members caring for their loved ones, or people participating in traditional West African funeral rites in which the deceased person is touched. As viruses go, Ebola is highly infectious, but not easily transmissible.
The French government is on high alert for any imported cases of the disease, and has a strong emergency plan in place to cope with any potential cases. The French Ministry of Health notes on a dedicated information page on their website that the country’s national health and sanitation institute (InVS) is closely monitoring the situation, and an emergency plan involving hospitals and health authorities, as well as airports and customs officials, has been firmly in place since March 2014. All visitors travelling to France from countries affected by the Ebola virus are being tested at the borders of their country of origin, and French authorities have been distributing information leaflets relating to transmission risks and symptoms in airports and on flights.
The French healthcare and hospital system is one of the world’s most advanced, and have been preparing for months for any possible cases. France is home to some of the globe’s leading infectious disease and epidemiology specialists, so even if a few cases were imported (something that may indeed happen in the coming months due to the ubiquity of air travel), the risk of these isolated cases developing into a major health crisis in Paris or the rest of France is very low. The Health Ministry page specifies that in the case of the intake of a patient with Ebola, they would be placed in isolation units and treated with the utmost precautions. To crunch some numbers: France spends $3,997 per capita on healthcare; whereas in Liberia, a West African country where the Ebola epidemic has turned into a full-blown humanitarian disaster, healthcare expenditure per capita is a mere $88.
But why aren’t all-out travel bans in place?
As in the US and the UK, some are calling for travel bans between France and the countries in West Africa most afflicted by Ebola. But in this age of global air travel and myriad connecting flights, citizens of those countries might enter the country on a connecting flight, rendering such bans effectively useless. Moreover, the World Health Organization as well as humanitarian aid groups like Doctors Without Borders insist that banning travel or closing borders would only make it more difficult to send aid, therefore encouraging the epidemic to grow even more serious in West Africa. Since we’re all so interconnected now in a globalized world, closing off borders would likely pose a greater danger to the world in the long run.
I’ve read that Paris is a major air hub for the countries hardest-hit by the disease. Shouldn’t I worry?
It’s true that because of its status as a flight hub to west African countries, there is a risk that someone from an Ebola-stricken country might eventually board a plane and lead to a few cases in Paris. Unfortunately, there is no zero-risk scenario. Again, however, at this time, there are zero reported cases in France at this time– and read my conclusion below reiterating my earlier point about the difficulty of transmitting the disease.
Still worried? Here’s my conclusion. In short: There’s currently very little reason to worry about the Ebola epidemic affecting tourists in Paris and the rest of France. Of course, it’s always a good idea to observe good hygiene practices while traveling, washing your hands frequently with hot soap and water, and perhaps using hand sanitizer if you can’t immediately wash your hands after using public restrooms or public transport. So if you find it difficult to quell your worrying, taking these kinds of measures can help soothe your mind. Remember, Ebola can only be spread through the direct transmission of bodily fluids from one person to another, and when you’re traveling, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll make this kind of contact with anyone.
Stay safe, stay calm, and above all, enjoy your trip. I’ll be publishing any updates of note and information of relevance to travellers at this page, so you can feel free to bookmark it and check back.
As far as this epidemic spreading worldwide, its next to impossible. It’s not like the Spanish flu that was airborne and killed millions in 1917. The unfortunate Africans that are dying are largely the result of poor medical facilities and lack of Doctors. Families are caring for victims themselves, hence contracting the disease with no means of treatment. Sad state of affairs to be sure.
Stay Healthy and Happy.
The Antique Warehouse
226 SW Marine Drive,