There is currently an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa. Three countries are chiefly affected: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There have also been a small number of cases in healthcare workers who have treated Ebola patients in the USA and Spain.
Ebola is a rare but serious viral infection. People in the UK are at low risk of Ebola, as the virus is only transmitted by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person, showing symptoms of the disease. There have been no cases of Ebola virus disease being contracted in the UK.
Information for the public
A detailed briefing is available on the NHS Choices website providing information about symptoms, how it spreads, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and travel advice.
It remains unlikely but not impossible that people infected in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone could arrive in the UK. These countries have exit screening at airports to ensure that individuals who are unwell do not board flights. The UK has also introduced entry screening for people arriving from these three countries. However, as the time between infection and symptoms first appearing can be up to 21 days, it is possible that individuals returning from affected countries could develop symptoms up to three weeks after arrival.
How is the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) addressing the risk of Ebola Virus Disease?
The CCG works closely with NHS England and Public Health England, keeping informed of all national guidance as it is released. The CCG then works with the NHS Trusts from which it commissions healthcare services to ensure that they have addressed and implemented all the relevant national guidance and have adequate plans in place to assess and manage any patients suspected of having Ebola Virus Disease.
What if someone thinks they might have Ebola?
Unless you have come into contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person (for example by providing healthcare for a person with Ebola or handling the dead body of someone who died from Ebola), there is little chance of being infected.
The advice is that if anyone is worried about symptoms (such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, sore throat or rash) within 21 days of coming back from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, they should stay at home and immediately telephone 111 or 999 and explain they have recently visited West Africa. If necessary, they would be taken by ambulance to hospital where they would be isolated and seen by healthcare staff wearing personal protective equipment. If required, blood samples would be taken for testing. If confirmed, the patient would be safely transferred to the Royal Free Hospital.
It’s important to remember there are other illnesses which are much more common than Ebola (such as flu, typhoid fever and malaria) that have similar symptoms in the early stages, so proper medical assessment is really important to ensure each patient gets the right diagnosis and treatment. It is also really important that medical services are expecting a patient’s arrival and calling 111 or 999 will ensure that this happens