WHO’s European director says continent remains at low risk and one of the best prepared places to respond to the infection. Ebola has infected about 7,200 people in west Africa, killing more than 3,400 of them in the largest outbreak of the disease in history. Cases have also been imported into Nigeria, Senegal and the US.
People wear protective masks before they enter Hospital Fundacion Alcorcon where a Spanish nurse tested positive for the Ebola virus in Alcorcon, Spain.
He World Health Organisation has said it is ready to provide support for Spain as authorities in the country scrambled to contain the first case of Ebola infection within Europe.
WHO’s European director, Zsuzsanna Jakab, said it was “quite unavoidable … that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around”.
She added: “The most important thing in our view is that Europe is still at low risk, and that the western part of the European region particularly is the best prepared in the world to respond to viral haemorrhagic fevers including Ebola.”
In Britain, David Cameron will chair an emergency Cobra meeting on Wednesday to discuss the outbreak of Ebola in west Africa, though No 10 stressed it had been scheduled for some time.
In advance of that meeting, Cameron called the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, to find out what extra help might be needed.
A Downing Street spokesman said the president informed Cameron that the situation “continued to be very serious and they were increasing their response, with a need to train more medical staff, have a better system for servicing treatment centres and improve the burial process”.
He added: “The prime minister said the UK would continue to do all it could to support their efforts.”
Public Health England (PHE) moved swiftly to reassure the public that an outbreak of the disease was unlikely. “The overall risk of Ebola to the UK remains low,” the agency said in a statement.
“The UK contingency plans for Ebola have always been based on the assumption that there is a low, but nevertheless real, risk of importing a case of Ebola from west Africa. However, it is important to remember that even if a case is identified here, the UK has robust, well-developed and well-tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases.”
WHO recommends exit screening for people with unexplained illness leaving Ebola-affected countries, PHE pointed out. Entry screening at British ports and airports is not recommended by WHO, however. It would have to involve screening every returning traveller, because people could travel via a third country.
Dr Paul Cosford, director of health protection at PHE, said: “The risk of travellers and people working in affected countries contracting Ebola remains low, but PHE continues to keep border staff and medical practitioners informed, and request they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited these areas in west Africa.” As part of contingency preparations, PHE has provided primary care and hospital healthcare workers with the latest information about the outbreak and actions to take in the event of a possible case.
“Advice has also been issued to UK immigration centres, universities and schools, and humanitarian workers travelling out to affected countries, and the general public. PHE will continue to liaise with the Border Agency and Port Health, and other partners, to provide ongoing guidance.”
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. Protective measures would be strictly maintained to minimise risk of transmission to healthcare workers treating the individual.”
“It is important to remember that for Ebola to be transmitted from one person to another, contact with blood or other body fluids is needed. As such, if England was to see a case of Ebola this will not result in an outbreak here.”
In the US, one coastguard sector said it would contact ships that had recently been to Ebola-affected countries to ask whether passengers had symptoms of the virus before they were allowed into port.
It issued a bulletin to the maritime community in Long Island Sound, which includes parts of New York and Connecticut, on Monday. The bulletin describes protocols being put into place due to Ebola. It did not immediately say whether the protocols were being used nationwide.
The coastguard said the policy applies to vessels that have been to an affected country within its last five ports of call.
In Dallas, Texas, Thomas Duncan, the first Ebola patient diagnosed on US soil is in a critical condition. Thomas is on a ventilator and a kidney dialysis machine to help stabilise him, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where he is being treated said Tuesday.
The Obama administration is considering whether to begin extra screenings at airports to check passengers coming from Ebola-stricken countries. It has said it would not stop flights from those countries.
Source: The Guardian.