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Could Ebola Arrive in Italy?

It is probable that immigrants from Africa infected with the Ebola virus could cause an outbreak in Italy. Indeed, in today’s papers in Italy there are reports of two people in a hospital in Padua in Italy’s north who are being tested for signs of the disease. Other suspected cases in other areas of Italy have occurred too. So far, though, Ebola has not been diagnosed.

At least some of the immigrants who have been flooding into Italy by boat this summer are from Nigeria and other areas where outbreaks of Ebola have occurred. Could these people bring Ebola to Italy? I carried out a little research.

The incubation period of this devastating disease ranges from 2 to 20 days, though, according to Wikipedia, the time from infection to the appearance of symptoms is generally from 8 to 10 days. Even if symptoms are apparent, Ebola can be mistaken for other diseases.

Travel Time from Africa to Italy


How long does it take immigrants to travel from Nigeria and other parts of Africa where there have been Ebola outbreaks? Google maps can give one an idea.

From Lagos in Nigeria to Tripoli in Libya is a journey of around 4,400 kilometres. The distance from Monrovia, the capital of Liberia to Tripoli is around 5,500kms. If one assumes an average speed of 30 kilometres an hour and a 12 hour driving day, the Lagos to Tripoli trip would take just over 12 days. On the other hand, getting from Monrovia to Tripoli would take a little over 15 days.

Tripoli is one of the immigrant boat launch points, but there are others such as Benghazi and Tunis.

The boat trip from Tripoli to the Italian island of Lampedusa takes just over a day.

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Now, assuming the total journey to Italy takes between 14 and 17 days, infected immigrants arriving on Italy’s shores may not be showing symptoms, which, as you may remember, may take as many as 20 days to appear.

Journeys to Italy Can Take Longer than 20 Days

Merely getting from one part of Africa to ports from which boats to Italy leave can take much longer than two weeks though. According to an article entitled The Journey of the Illegal Immigrant on the Invisible Dog website which is run by a couple of Italian journalists, the journey to Italy may take much more than a couple of weeks and, if individuals have to work to earn money to pay the boatmen, then the journey will take much, much longer.

Whether or not an Ebola outbreak occurs in Italy depends on how long it takes immigrants to get from their points of origin to Italy. If the time taken is less than 20 days and the immigrants come from Ebola infected areas, then the risk of an Ebola outbreak happening in Italy increases.

The travel estimates given in this article suggest that it is possible for those infected with Ebola to arrive in Italy a good few days before symptoms manifest themselves.

Yes, those infected by Ebola could arrive by plane too but Italy’s authorities are supposedly keeping an eye on travellers arriving in Italy. If the symptoms do not show themselves for as long as 20 days, visible checks may not be enough.

Identifying Immigrants – Virtually Impossible

Italy’s authorities could place immigrants from Ebola infected areas of Africa under observation. However, this may not work because immigrants do not always give accurate information about their nationalities. Those coming from Ebola infected zones are even less likely to admit their nationalities.

Complicating matters yet further are suspicions that attempts by Italy’s authorities to identify immigrants range from limited to non existent. Not that such attempts, even if they are being made, are likely to work anyway. Identification documents, if they even exist, may have been forged.

By the way, Italy’s right has been attempting to exploit Ebola worries to generate publicity for its anti-immigrant policies.

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