Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 5, 2015. After review of health conditions and limited availability of medical evacuation options, the U.S. Department of State, on August 14, 2014, ordered the departure of eligible family members residing with Embassy staff in Freetown, and issued a Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens against non-essential travel to Sierra Leone. The Embassy recommended this action out of an abundance of caution following the determination that there was a lack of options for urgent health care services at major medical facilities due to the Ebola outbreak. On February 4, 2015, the U.S. Department of State modified the status for accompanying family members to allow only adult eligible family members to accompany the principal employee to Embassy Freetown.
Greater response efficiency and additional isolation facilities, among other improvements, have broken the exponential growth of the Ebola epidemic. While the national trend is decreasing, there continues to be moderate to high transmission in some districts as well as local outbreaks of concern. These include Western Area Urban and Rural (Freetown and its environs), Moyamba, Port Loko, Kambia, and Kono. The positive progress is promising, but the epidemic is not yet fully under control.
If you arrive in Sierra Leone and subsequently need routine or emergency medical care, you should expect limited, if any, options. Though improved, hospitals still have suspect infection control despite focused training, health care worker infections continue in non-Ebola treatment centers, and private clinics and laboratories remain closed. Travelers are advised that air carriers chartered by medical evacuation insurance companies are unable to reliably provide timely services in Sierra Leone or the region, and local ambulance services for transport to the airport are essentially unavailable. Policyholders should confirm the availability of medical evacuation services prior to travel. While commercial flights are still available from Sierra Leone, some airlines have discontinued service and flights may become more difficult to obtain. If you plan to visit Sierra Leone despite this warning, you should purchase travel insurance that includes medical evacuation, and confirm under what circumstances coverage applies to Sierra Leone.
The Department of State urges those U.S. citizens who decide to travel to or remain in Sierra Leone despite this Travel Warning to provide their current contact information through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to contact you in an emergency. If you do not have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where you can find current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution. Read the Country Specific Information for Sierra Leone. For additional information, refer to the Traveler’s Checkliston the State Department’s website.
Check U.S. Embassy Freetown’s website for up-to-date messages to U.S. citizens. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to have travel information at your fingertips.
U.S. Embassy Freetown is located at Southridge, Hill Station, in Freetown. Telephone: +232 (0)76-515-000. Emergency after-hours telephone: +232 (0)76-912-708.