6. Safety Measures

Contemplating the possibility of her own trip, Jennifer Yang sought guidance from the Red Cross and other aid organizations, including Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Claudia Blume, press officer for MSF Canada, says a big part of the organization’s mission is to support journalists going into the field to report on what they’re witnessing firsthand. In this case, MSF asked their doctors to offer advice to Canadian journalists before heading to an Ebola zone.

The International News Safety Institute (INSI) is another international organization that aims to ensure proper safety guidelines for journalists. According to INSI, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control as well as the World Health Organization have refrained from issuing health advice to media traveling to Ebola affected regions, but rather recommended that all individuals avoid traveling to these areas.[1]

Among the personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies recommended by INSI for travel to ebola areas are:

  • FFP3 respirators (facemasks)
  • Goggles
  • Eye care
  • Protective coveralls (Tyvek or Tychem)
  • Overboots
  • Antiviral disinfectant (Virkon sachets or tablets)
  • Sponge or spray bottles
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Clinical waste bags
  • Alcohol gel hand wash
  • Hard surface wipes
  • Transparent plastic pouch [2]

INSI also suggests that journalists have up-to-date vaccinations. Even before deciding to make the trip, Yang got herself a prescription for the malaria pill, Malarone. Not only should this prevent what is in normal times, at least, the number one killer in Sierra Leone, but because initial malaria symptoms are similar to Ebola, Yang might have otherwise risked being treated as an Ebola patient, and sent to a hospital filled with other infected people.[3]

If she made the trip, the Star  would also need to fund the purchase of  hundreds of pairs of gloves, goggles and masks for Yang, her driver and her fixer. Plus: Lysol disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, rubbing alcohol, disposable J-Cloths, and her own personal bucket of bleach in case of a shortage while in country.


One of Yang’s main concerns was her contact lenses. Since the eyeball is a mucous membrane, something as simple as putting on and removing contacts could provide the virus with a new home. Glasses were not an option because with the heat in Sierra Leone, Yang did not want to be wiping sweat off her face and fixing her glasses throughout the day. To stay safe, she needed to minimize how often she touched her face.

Although a contact from the Red Cross in West Africa assured her that the risks were manageable, others who were worried about her safety and told her they were panicking. This led Yang into what she calls a “spiral of anxiety.”

Next: Isolation

[1-2] Richard Darwood, “Advisory: Covering the Ebola outbreak: INSI”, International News Safety Institute, September 8, 2014.

[3] “Sierra Leone: In Communities at Risk, the Fight Against Ebola and Malaria Goes Hand in Hand,” The United Nations Children’s Fund, accessed December 8, 2014.