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Ebola Outbreak: How Likely Is It To Reach The UK?

Wednesday 30th July 2014

Doctors in the UK have been told to be vigilant about the deadly ebola virus, following an outbreak in Western Africa.

ebola doctors

Over 670 people have been killed by the disease and fears of an outbreak have grown after an infected man was able to make multiple flights from Liberia to Nigeria.

So how concerned should you be? Here is what you need to know about the disease

Everything You Need To Know About Ebola

What are the symptons of ebola?
Early symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat - not too disimiliar to a common cold. But this is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and often both internal and external bleeding.

The incubation period, the time from infection to onset of symptoms, is from two to 21 days.


How is ebola transmitted?
According the World Health Organisation, ebola is one of the world's most virulent diseases.

Infection comes from direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected people or animals. Those most at risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with the sick and dead patients. Indeed, Dr Sheik Humarr Khan, who was treating patients with ebola in Sierra Leone, died yesterday.

It is still contagious after the victim has died and it has been known for family anf friends of the victims to contract the disease when they have contact with the body during the funeral.

How can ebola be treated?
Ebola can have a fatality rate of 90%, although that has been reduced to around 60% recently. There is no vaccine or cure, and any treatment or testing to confirm the virus needs to be done by doctors in sealed hazmat boiler suits.

Why has this alert been issued ebola outbreak?
This is the largest outbreak ever recorded of the disease, with over 1,000 known cases in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Over 600 of those have died.

How worried should we be about ebola coming to the UK?
Public Health England has issued a national medical alert to all UK doctors advising them to "remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited the affected area.

The main concern is that the incubation period for ebola is two to 21 days, meaning symptons may not show for up to three weeks following infection. So a person who has been infected could quite easily get on a plane without knowing they have the disease. Being extremely contagious, it can spread extremely quickly if not contained immediately.

American Patrick Sawyer took several flights from Liberia to Nigeria after contracting the disease and this has made the World Health Organisation concerned that someone could bring it to the UK.

Public Health England says the risk of a traveller contracting Ebola is very low without direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person or animal.

There has been one previous case in the UK, when someone was accidentally infected in a laboratoryin 1976, although they survived.