British Ebola outbreak: Doctors order to look out for deadly symptoms as killer virus hits UK

Sunday, July 6, 2014
By Paul Martin
Sunday 6 Jul 2014

Every GP in the country has been ordered to look out for symptoms of the killer ebola virus in a scramble to stop the world’s deadliest outbreak taking hold in Britain.

Doctors have been sent new guidelines on how to deal with suspected cases of the virus, which kills nine out ten people it infects and is now sweeping through west Africa.

British health officials have been dispatched to the affected areas in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, while Britain’s port authorities have also been put on alert.

Although health officials say the risk is slight, they are concerned about people returning here after visiting their families in west Africa and Sierra Leone in particular. They are also worried about an influx of visitors from the region this month for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Prof David Haymann, head of global health security at the think-tank Chatham House, said: ‘The virus appears to be stable but there’s a huge family of fever viruses and there’s always a chance of a mutation.’

The virus was first detected in 1976 when it killed 280 people in the Congo. It causes death through multiple organ failure and internal bleeding and there is still no cure or vaccine.

It is spread through contact with bodily fluids but there is some evidence it can be transmitted through water droplets in the air.

The death toll from the latest outbreak is said to be 467 although experts fear this is a gross underestimate.

Prof Dilys Morgan, from Public Health England, said: ‘Because the incubation period is up to 21 days there’s a slight risk that cases may turn up in the UK but that risk is very low.’

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