Ebola: 'British man dies of deadly virus in Macedonia and one other is taken ill'

The Foreign Office is "urgently" investigating the reports

Officials are urgently investigating reports that a British man has died of Ebola in Macedonia and another has contracted the disease.

The Britons, who are believed to be friends, had travelled to the country from the London on 2 October, according to a spokesman for the Macedonian Foreign Ministry who confirmed the death.

The Macedonian authorities said the dead man was 57 and his friend is 72.

The patients had been staying at a hotel in the capital, Skopje, when they fell ill. The now-deceased man was admitted to the city’s Clinic for Infectious Diseases at around 3pm local, according to a Macedonian government official. He died around two hours later.

His friend remains under observation at the hospital, as medical staff attempt to confirm whether the pair were infected with Ebola.

Dr Jovanka Kostovska of the Ministry's commission for infectious diseases said the man had been suffering from a fever, vomiting and internal bleeding, and that his condition deteriorated rapidly.

"These are all symptoms of Ebola, which raises suspicions with this patient," Kostovska told a news conference. Samples from the man had been sent to Germany for tests to confirm the cause of death, she added.

But Public Health England said it believed it was "unlikely" that the death was caused by the virus, which has claimed thousands of lives in West Africa, but investigations were continuing.

Dr Brian McCloskey, of Public Health England, said: "Public Health England is aware there are unconfirmed reports of a British national dying in Macedonia, who may have exhibited some symptoms compatible with Ebola.

"We understand Ebola to be unlikely as the cause of death but are will continue to work with partners to investigate."

Hotel staff and the ambulance crew that took them to the clinic were put into isolation as the authorities tried to prevent the disease spreading.

The hotel has since been sealed off in an attempt to contain the disease, according to authorities.

"We are looking to see what are the reasons according to the protocols of the World Health Organisation," he added.

In the UK a Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reports and we are looking into them urgently.”

If confirmed, the person would be the first UK national to die from the deadly virus, after British nurse Will Pooley was cured of Ebola last month.

The news came as Downing Street said enhanced screening for Ebola will be introduced at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and Eurostar terminals following advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

Two months ago the Macedonian authorities announced they had introduced prevention measures at all airports. Passengers with Ebola-like symptoms were to be immediately isolated and taken to the Clinic for Infectious Diseases.

Dr Jovanka Kostovska, of the Commission for Infectious Diseases at the Ministry of Health, said in August that “all necessary” preventative measures were being taken at airports.

The World Health Organisation was last night unable to confirm whether anyone has contracted or died of Ebola in Macedonia.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

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