Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume 95, Number 1, January 2017, 1-84
Countries’ response to WHO’s travel recommendations during the 2013–2016 Ebola outbreak
Wendy Rhymer & Rick Speare
To determine how, during the 2013–2016 Ebola outbreak in western Africa, States Parties to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2005 International Health Regulations (IHR) followed the IHR’s international travel recommendations.
In 2015, we used the Google search engine to investigate the 196 States Parties to the 2005 IHR. Information detailing Ebola-related travel regulations or restrictions of each State Party was sourced first from official government websites and then from travel and news websites. When limited, conflicting or no relevant information was found on a government website, an email inquiry was sent to a corresponding embassy in an Anglophone country.
We collected relevant and non-conflicting data for each of 187 States Parties. Of these, 43 (23.0%) prohibited the entry of foreigners who had recently visited a country with widespread Ebola transmission and another 15 (8.0%) imposed other substantial restrictions on such travellers: the requirement to produce a medical certificate documenting no infection with Ebola (n = 8), mandatory quarantine (n = 6) or other restrictions (n = 1).
In responding to the 2013–2016 Ebola outbreak, countries had variable levels of adoption of the 2005 IHR’s international travel recommendations. We identified 58 (31.0%) States Parties that exceeded or disregarded the recommendations. There is a need for more research to understand and minimize deviations from such recommendations.