Doctors in Sheffield are on alert for patients showing signs of the killer Ebola virus – amid fears the illness could spread to the UK.
An outbreak of the deadly disease has claimed more than 670 lives in West Africa, and now health chiefs are worried air passengers could carry Ebola to Britain.
Dr Anne Tunbridge, consultant in infectious diseases at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said the risk of Ebola arriving in the UK was ‘very low’ and that it could only be caught through direct contact with an infected person’s body fluids.
But she said Sheffielders planning to travel to Africa should be ‘vigilant about personal hygiene’ and have the appropriate jabs before setting off.
“In addition, in West Africa, they should avoid any contact with people who are unwell or died of an unexplained illness, even if they are close family,” she said.
“Early symptoms are headache, high temperatures and aching limbs – however, the most likely cause of these symptoms in someone coming back from Africa is malaria, dengue fever or typhoid.”
Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea, fever, weakness, headache and sore throat. Victims can also suffer bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth – and there is no known cure.
Dr Tunbridge added: “The incubation period is two to 21 days, so if you become unwell more than three weeks after returning it is highly unlikely to be Ebola.
“If you become unwell within four weeks, you should get a medical assessment to exclude malaria, via your GP or A&E, who will then contact the infectious diseases team at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital if necessary.
“We have well-established protocols for assessing patients at risk of Ebola and anyone fulfilling the criteria would be isolated and managed appropriately.”
Dr Brian McCloskey, Public Health England’s director of global health, described the Ebola outbreak as the most ‘acute emergency’ facing Britain.