WASHINGTON -- Africa is really big. It's bigger than not only the United States but all of North America.
Yet judging by the reactions of some Americans, it would seem that Africa were nothing but a small country, and any travel there means you likely will get Ebola.
In reality, only five countries in Africa have had Ebola cases in the current outbreak. All of them -- Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone -- are located in the western part of the continent, and Nigeria and Senegal have since been declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization after going six weeks without any new cases.
The United States, meanwhile, is still treating two nurses who contracted Ebola after they treated a Dallas patient with the virus.
Nevertheless, Ebola-free African countries have been hit by ignorance, with tourists canceling safaris to places like Kenya, and academic institutions in the United States postponing visits. Even within the United States, individuals of African descent from places like Rwanda are facing discrimination by people who believe they may carry Ebola.
"The tragedy of Ebola goes far beyond the heartbreaking suffering of the people in hardest-hit West Africa," Ashish Sanghrajka, president of Florida-based Big Five Tours and Expeditions, told The Los Angeles Times. "Behind the scenes, another lesser known level of devastation is taking place. Tourism to Africa’s great wildlife destinations including Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Botswana is in free-fall, as travelers scheduled to go on safari holidays cancel in droves."
Below are some ways Ebola paranoia is affecting Ebola-free countries. The countries that have had Ebola cases -- even the ones that have been declared Ebola-free in recent days -- are red. The country being referenced is blue.
In the United States, the University of New Mexico canceled a trip for 24 students to go to Kenya to work on various health projects. And in West Virginia, an elementary school teacher who went on a mission trip to Kenya with her church will have to stay home for three weeks -- the time during which Ebola symptoms may appear -- and is cleared by several doctors.
On Sunday, Rwanda announced that it would be putting travelers coming from the United States and Spain through special screening to test for Ebola. The country has now backtracked on that measure, though.
South Africa also has a bustling tourism industry, and the World Bank recently concluded that a drop in activity due to Ebola fears could have "significant implications for economic growth."
In Pewaukee, Wisconsin, four families kept their children at home when the school recently hosted a priest and a teacher from their sister campus in Uganda.
"I don't think people know that Uganda is approximately 3,000 miles away from where West Africa and other outbreaks are," said Pewaukee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. JoAnn Sternke.
More than 30 foreign buyers also pulled out of a tourism conference last week over Ebola fears.
Sarah Harvard and Diane Jeanty contributed reporting.
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