Could Ebola Spread To The UK?

Debate rages over whether the deadly Ebola virus could spread to Britain, following the largest outbreak of the disease to date.

The outbreak began in March this year, when cases of Ebola virus were reported in west Africa. The first incidences occurred in forested areas in south-eastern Guinea, before spreading to towns in Guinea, as well as to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

According to the latest figures (up to July 6), 844 people have been diagnosed with Ebola and 518 people have died from the disease, in the three countries currently affected.

So far the virus has been contained to these three regions of Africa, but is there a possibility it could spread to Britain? One professor thinks so.

"I think its perfectly possible that someone could arrive from an infected area on a plane, particularly from the capital of Guinea or Liberia where there have been a number of cases of the disease. Both have flight links with Europe," virologist, Professor Derek Gatherer told City A.M.

However, Dr Dilys Morgan, spokesperson for Public Health England, told ITV that the risk of a traveller contracting Ebola is 'very low'.

"Public Health England will continue to monitor the situation, but no imported cases of Ebola have ever been reported in the UK," she said.

"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."

But even if the disease does spread to England, Professor Gatherer cautions there is no need to panic:

"I don't think there's much chance that it would pose a significant danger to us here, even if someone did arrive with the disease," he said. "We are prepared for dealing with this kind of disease."

Officials from west African countries and international health organisations formed a new strategy to combat the epidemic in talks on July 4.

They committed to better surveillance to detect cases, enhance cross-border collaboration and better engagement with local communities.

The World Health Organisation recommends that anyone who has stayed in areas where Ebola cases have recently been reported should be aware of the symptoms of infection and seek medical attention at the first sign of illness.