Scientists using data models to map the spread of the deadly Ebola virus claim there is a good chance the outbreak will spread to the United Kingdom and France by the end of the month, but reducing air traffic in and out of North-West Europe by just a fifth would slash the chances of it reaching the UK to fifteen percent.
The disease, which is presently undergoing the largest outbreak on record remains largely confined to the African West-Coast and has killed nearly 3,500 through haemorrhagic fever. A small number of cases have been treated outside of West Africa as foreign nationals have been returned home for medical care, including France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and now the United States.
Despite the small numbers of cases reported outside of the core of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone the potential for the highly contagious virus to spread organically has been studied and probabilities have been assigned by the Laboratory for the Modelling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems at Northeastern University in Boston, reports The Independent.
Using airline traffic data, the laboratory now believes there is a 75 percent chance France will see it spreading within the next month, and Britain is close behind on 50 percent.
France has among the highest chances of any Western country to become infected because many of those countries already hardest hit are Francophone nations, and air traffic between the nations is rapid. Britain also has long standing ties with Sierra Leone, a nation it effectively founded as a home for freed slaves in 1787.
Because the United Kingdom has some of the world’s busiest airports and is a regular destination for African travellers its risk rating is significantly higher than more insular nations such as Switzerland, which only stands at 14 percent.
Despite the spread of the disease, air traffic remains very nearly at full capacity, as it was before the outbreak. The report suggests that a twenty percent reduction in air travel would slash Britain’s chance of an outbreak to just fifteen percent, a cut of over two thirds.