Ebola 'likely to arrive in UK' as pressure builds on Government to introduce airport screening

President Obama has announced plans to start screening at US airports

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Ebola experts are warning the deadly virus will most likely arrive in the UK at some point, as pressure mounts on the Government to begin testing travellers arriving in Britain.

According to research from a group of American universities monitoring the spread of the disease, the UK is the third-most-likely country outside Africa to “import” Ebola.

Thomas Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US, died in a Texas hospital on Wednesday as Washington announced plans to introduce screening for the highly contagious virus at airports.

President Barack Obama said checks will include taking the temperatures of hundreds of travellers arriving from West Africa at five major American airports. The current outbreak of Ebola has killed at least 3,800 people, mainly across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Writing for The Independent, Tom Solomon, the Director, Institute Infection and Global Health and Professor of Neurology at the University of Liverpool, said the UK must accept that a small number of cases will probably arrive in Britain.

"Its arrival in the United States was predicted, and we should expect this may happen again in the USA as well as in Europe," he wrote.

"The key question is could we detect such cases, and how well prepared are we to deal with them."

Ministers are now urging the Government to introduce screening at airports, train stations and sea ports, as well as training for immigration officers on how to spot symptoms of Ebola.

Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat minister in the Home Office, described Ebola’s arrival in Europe as a "very concerning development" and said: "We need to consider whether existing controls are adequate." UK hospitals are on standby to deal with a potential Ebola outbreak and the the Royal Free Hospital in London, where nurse William Pooley was treated after contracting the disease in Sierra Leone, has sent specialist equipment to hospitals in Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield.

It comes as Spanish nurse Teresa Romero became the first person known to have contracted the virus outside of Africa. Ms Romero had been part of a team treating Spanish missionaries repatriated to Spain after being diagnosed with Ebola.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) advisor warned more cases of Ebola in Europe will be “unavoidable”, particularly among medical staff treating victims.

On Wednesday, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted it is now “entirely possible” that someone with Ebola will arrive in the UK, but insisted the Government has “very, very good plans in place” to deal with it.

"The NHS has a proven track record of dealing with and helping people with Ebola,” he said.

"Our ambulance services are equipped with the protective suits.

Public Health England has also resisted calls for screening, arguing that it would be impractical to screen passengers at airports as those who are infected may not be showing signs or symptoms of the virus.

Comments