Britain’s Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has confirmed that he believes Britain will experience its first case of Ebola within the next three months. In a statement to the House of Commons the minister said that whilst the general risk to the UK population was low, he said the government was making preparations for an increase to that risk.
The advice came from the country’s Chief Medical Officer, who is said to have taken advice from governmental organisations Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. In order to minimise the risk the UK Border Agency will start screening all arrivals from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, although it will take a few weeks for all airports to be covered.
Arrivals will be asked to fill out a questionnaire, have their temperature taken and asked to report any symptoms to doctors. The Health Secretary also said that it was likely some people would arrive from these countries but that might not be obvious from their tickets. In these cases he pledged to put adverts up reminding people it was in their best interests to seek the help they needed to stay healthy.
Hunt also pledged that “higher risk individuals” will be contacted on a daily basis by Public Health England. He said that “they will have the reassurance of knowing this system will get them first class medical care” and he cited the case of the nurse William Pooley, who survived despite contracting the virus.
Ambulances have also been equipped with protective clothing that would be needed by paramedics if they come across a case. In addition to this the Chief Medical Officer has been updating GPs to ensure they know how to identify the symptoms of the disease.
Jeremy Hunt said: “We should remember that the international community has shown that if we act decisively we can defeat serious new infectious disease threats such as SARS and pandemic flu.
“The situation will get worse before it gets better, but we should not flinch in our resolve to defeat Ebola both for the safety of the British population and as part of our responsibility to some of the poorest countries on the planet.
“Our response will continue to develop in the weeks and months to come,”
Ebola has already killed over 4,000 and infected twice as many in seven countries. There is widespread fear that it will soon become prevalent in Europe after cases were identified in countries that have direct flights to major capital cities.