Should we really be worried about the Ebola virus in Britain?

Should we really be worried about the Ebola virus in Britain?
Staff from charity Médecins Sans Frontières carry the body of a person killed by Ebola in Guinea in April (Picture: AFP/Getty)

The scientist who discovered Ebola almost 40 years ago says it is highly unlikely that the virus will spread to Britain.

Three countries in west Africa – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – are currently in the midst of the deadliest Ebola outbreak since the disease was identified in 1976.

It was discovered in a village in the Democratic Republic of Congo by Belgian microbiologist Professor Peter Piot, now director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

At least 672 people have been killed in the current outbreak, which began in March. Experts suspect the virus was transmitted from a fruit bat in Guinea to one person. It spreads through humans from direct contact with the blood and other bodily fluids of the infected. When the victim has died, the virus is often spread to relatives tending to the body in funeral rituals.

‘This is undoubtedly the largest outbreak in terms of number of people infected and the number of deaths,’ said Prof Piot.

‘This is unprecedented. It is the first one that involves multiple countries. In Guinea, it’s slowly going down but in Liberia and Sierra Leone we’re definitely not seeing the end yet – it’s a very active epidemic there.’

Foreign secretary Philip Hammond warned yesterday that the Ebola outbreak did pose a threat to Britain, even if there have been no reported cases here. Prof Piot said the government is correct to be vigilant, but that Britons shouldn’t panic.

MORE: Ebola virus is a threat to UK, says Hammond

‘The risk of an outbreak of Ebola in London, for example, is extremely low if non-existent,’ he said.

‘The biggest risk here if a patient arrived would be for hospital workers but our standards of hospital hygiene are so much better. We would be really prepared for that.

‘Every doctor and nurse should ask someone who comes with fever: “Where have you been?” And if it’s from west Africa that would mean these patients would have to be treated with special care and there are special units for that to protect the nurses and doctors and also the public.’

He added: ‘Ebola is transmitted through really close contact. You really need to have contact with someone who is bleeding or vomiting. It’s not just sitting next to someone on the Tube – that’s not a problem. Here, the risk is absolutely minimal for us, fortunately.

‘Unlike Sars [severe acute respiratory syndrome], which is airborne: that’s something you can catch by breathing next to someone with Sars, but that’s not the case with Ebola. Then we would be in big trouble.’

Prof Piot said he never thought he would still be talking about the virus 38 years after he discovered it. He travelled to what was then Zaire to trace the virus after a blood sample from a Belgian nun who had died from a mysterious illness was sent to his lab in Antwerp.

MORE: Professor Peter Piot on discovering the Ebola virus

He said the latest outbreak was not down to the virus itself, but human behaviour.

‘These are three very poor countries with very poorly functional health services. There is not much confidence in health services. This is a disease of poverty but also of badly functioning health services.’

There is no cure for Ebola, which causes a virulent disease called hemorrhagic fever which is up to 90 per cent fatal and causes internal and external bleeding. ‘These epidemics will emerge and re-emerge,’ said Prof Piot.

If the article suppose to have a video or a photo gallery and it does not appear on your screen, please Click Here

31 July 2014 | 5:00 am – Source:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.