CDC moves five countries from ‘low risk’ to ‘very high risk’ travel category

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday moved five countries into its “very high” travel risk category — marking a change of classification from its previous list of countries with high risk.

The move brings Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo into the same high-risk category as travelers to Vietnam, Mexico, Costa Rica, Russia, Poland, France, Sweden, Uruguay and Georgia.

The CDC downgraded the Cambodian People’s Party from “high” travel risk to “medium” risk in December.

“High-risk travel is to areas of high infectious disease risk,” said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the CDC. “It is a small group of countries that have raised the threat level recently. Many countries in Africa are low risk.”

Hartl also said, “We are concerned about tourism and business to areas with low risk.”

The CDC is quick to note that the designations do not mean U.S. residents are no longer considered to be at risk for exposure to infectious diseases. Rather, they mean there are broader public health concerns to consider.

“CDC officials believe the epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has largely been overshadowed by other outbreaks in West Africa and Southeast Asia, is still only slowly unfolding.” The decision, Hartl said, takes into account the relatively small number of travel-associated deaths so far, rather than the small number of cases.

“We do not anticipate people traveling from these countries to the United States,” Hartl said.

But people are advised to take precautions against complications from the disease, and to thoroughly wash their hands after visiting affected areas. When traveling, they are asked to avoid countries where a majority of confirmed cases have been in. For DRC, one of the countries on the increased travel risk list, hospitals are urged to coordinate with local community health workers who may be more familiar with local conditions.

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