The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has put UK hospitals on “alert” over the Ebola virus, after an outbreak killed at least 80 in the African state of Guinea.
As the deadly virus spreads through the west African country, the HPA are now taking precautions in case it should arrive on British shores.
Speaking to ITV News, Dr Brian McCloskey, director of Global Health at the HPA said: “What we have done is make sure all hospitals in the UK have been alerted, so if a patient turns up, who has those symptoms, who has been to that part of West Africa, they can be tested and looked after in specialist facilities in London.”
He said although transmission from western Africa to the UK is unlikely, it is not impossible.
“The chance of it spreading outside West Africa is relatively small, because essentially people get ill relatively quickly. They are not likely get on a plane and survive a journey.
“It’s technically possible that somebody could get on a plane and arrive in the UK. It’s extremely unlikely.”
Ebola has been described as the “world’s deadliest virus”, with a mortality rate of 90 percent.
Symptoms appear suddenly and include fever, headache, muscle cramps and sore throat, which soon turn to vomiting, diarrhoea and impaired kidney and liver function. The virus finally causes haemorrhaging, leading to death.
It spreads initially through contact with wild animals, especially fruit bats, and can be highly infectious once it has entered the human population.
There is no known vaccine or cure.
The disease is so deadly that medics in Guinea are having to dress in full protective clothing and treat people in disinfected isolation tents.
The Daily Mail reports that neighbouring countries have closed their borders with Guinea, including Liberia, where the senate approved a state of emergency. Senegal has also shut its frontier with the country.