The Spanish nurse infected by Ebola is moved by ambulance in Alcorcon, Spain / GETTY IMAGES

 

Health officials have revealed there are no plans to screen travellers entering the UK for the deadly Ebola virus, as more than 100 Army medics prepare to travel to Sierra Leone to help tackle the epidemic.

Public Health England (PHE) said the overall risk of the virus to the UK remains "low" and the country has "robust, well-developed and well-tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases".

It comes after a Spanish nurse contracted Ebola in the first known transmission outside west Africa.

A PHE spokesman said: "There are no plans to introduce entry screening for Ebola in the UK. This would require the UK to screen every returning traveller, as people could return to the UK from an affected country through any port of entry. This would be huge numbers of low-risk people.

"PHE has provided UK Border Force with advice on the assessment of an unwell patient on entry to UK."

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at PHE, said: "UK hospitals have a proven record of dealing with imported infectious diseases. If an Ebola case is repatriated to, or detected in, the UK they would receive appropriate treatment in an isolation unit, with all appropriate protocols promptly activated."

Personnel from 22 Field Hospital, normally based in York, are expected to sent on their humanitarian operation to west Africa within the next few weeks.

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They will staff a field hospital set up specifically to treat medics who have caught the disease, not members of the general public, and will operate a 12-bed facility.

The medics have been undergoing an extensive training exercise in full protective suits, with simulated casualties in make-up, at Strensall Barracks, York. The exercise which is expected to last two weeks has been running for 13 hours every day.

Casualties with symptoms or suspicion of the Ebola virus, complete with realistic make-up and prosthetic veins, present themselves to the teams who are dressed in full protective plastic suits and face masks.

An Army spokeswoman said: "They are going through all their procedures and getting atuned to wearing their personal protective equipment, working in quite hot temperatures.

"The training centre, which was geared up to be a replica of Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, can vary the temperature and it is warm in there today.

"The casualties come in and the medics test their procedures and working through using their protective equipment."

The unprecedented Ebola outbreak this year has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, and become an escalating concern to the rest of the world.

British nurse William Pooley, who contracted the virus in Sierra Leone, survived after he was treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the Government was continuing to keep the issue of tighter travel restrictions under review after a Spanish nurse contracted Ebola, and three others were placed under quarantine, at a Madrid hospital.

She told BBC News: "It doesn't change the assessment of the risk to the UK.

"But what it does show is why we're right to be working with governments as we are in Sierra Leone to help them combat this disease where it's spreading so rapidly now."

Press Association

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