Emergency meeting on UK Ebola risk

Published Wednesday, 30 July 2014
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A Cobra emergency meeting has been held to assess the "very serious threat" posed to the UK by the world's largest outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people.

Emergency meeting on UK Ebola risk
Médecins Sans Frontières workers wear protective gear to treat Ebola patients. (© Getty)
FACTBOX: EBOLA VIRUS
Symptoms
fever, headache, aches, sore throat, weakness, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain
Severe symptoms
skin rash, red eyes, internal and external bleeding
Most at risk
health workers, those in direct contact with patients
Prevention
avoid contact with patients/infected animals, practice careful hygiene
Vaccine
none available
Response
no specific treatment beyond controlling bleeding, managing fluids and oxygen, treating pain and secondary infections

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond chaired Wednesday's meeting at Downing Street, looking at any measures that needed to be put in place to prevent the virus reaching the UK from West Africa.

However, he insisted it was "most unlikely" that Ebola would spread within the UK.

"I would emphasise again, in terms of the UK, the issue is about the possibility of somebody who has contracted the disease in Africa getting sick here," Mr Hammond said.

"It is not about the disease spreading in the UK because we have frankly different standards of infection control procedure that would make that most unlikely."

Two suspected cases earlier this week, one in Birmingham and one in London, have proved negative.

But medical facilities across the UK have been warned to be alert for those with symptoms who have recently returned from the countries affected by the outbreak.

Dr Anne Wilson from the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland told U105's Frank Mitchell Phone In that the likelihood of contracting Ebola was "very low" - unless through direct contact.

It's not like 'flu - it's not transmitted through the air.

Dr Anne Wilson, PHA

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are at the centre of the crisis.

Among those to die from the disease was leading expert Dr Sheik Humarr Khan, who had been hailed as a hero for his work on the frontline of treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.

In a separate case, an American man on his way home to the US died after developing symptoms on board a flight from Liberia to Nigeria.

Many flights between affected West African countries have now been halted to stop the spread.

Up to 90% of Ebola cases prove fatal. There is no vaccine, effective treatment or cure.

The natural host is believed to be the fruit bat from the Pteropodidae family, with the virus passing to humans through close contact with the blood, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals.

Person to person spread occurs as a result of direct contact with blood, organs or bodily fluids - putting health workers most at risk, but making the threat to the general public much lower.

© UTV News
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