Public Health England (PHE) is continuing to work with government and NHS colleagues to ensure the UK remains alert to, and prepared for the risk of Ebola, but the overall risk of Ebola remains very low in the UK.
While the Chief Medical Officer has acknowledged the possibility we may see a ‘handful’ of cases in the UK, we are not expecting a major Ebola outbreak in this country.
If a case of Ebola is identified in the UK, we have well-developed and well-tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases, as demonstrated by the treatment of the British nurse repatriated in August 2014.
Today (5 December 2014), PHE has published its first monthly activity summary, with information on the international picture, the number of individuals screened at ports across England and the total number of Ebola related tests carried out since the start of the outbreak.
The British nurse remains the only positive case of Ebola in the UK, of the 113 tests undertaken in England to date.
General symptoms of Ebola include fever, aches, pains and sickness, and the majority of tests are undertaken as a precautionary measure to rule out Ebola and check for other viruses, including the more prevalent Malaria. Although Ebola testing has increased at this time of heightened vigilance, this is not a reflection that the risk of Ebola has changed.
Ebola screening ensures as many people as possible arriving directly from the infected countries are aware of the symptoms and know how to get access to healthcare services quickly.
As of midnight on Sunday 30 November 2014, 1301 people have been assessed at ports with enhanced screening operations in England.
Screening numbers will change with general travel patterns, such as increased travel around religious festivals or healthcare workers travelling as part of the international response to Ebola.
As with the testing figures, the number of people being screening for Ebola on entry to the UK does not reflect an increase in the risk of Ebola in the UK, but does reflect our robust monitoring and surveillance for the virus.
Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection at PHE, said:
The risk of travellers and people working in affected countries contracting Ebola remains low, but PHE continues to keep border staff and medical practitioners informed, and request they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited these areas in West Africa.
We have robust mechanisms in place for detecting and responding to any usual infections within the UK, but ultimately the best possible defence will be ensuring the outbreak in West Africa is brought under control.
This report gives an indication of the breadth of the response to the outbreak in the UK, coordinated by PHE with partners. While we continue to monitor for risk in this country, PHE scientists are also working tirelessly on the ground in Sierra Leone to support the international effort to combat the outbreak.”