Saturday 14 December 2019

Deadly Ebola virus a threat to whole of Europe, warn health experts

Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun. Reuters
Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun. Reuters
Dr. Kent Brantly (L) of Samaritan's Purse relief organization is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Samaritan's Purse, wearing personal protective equipment as he cares for Ebola patients at the case management center on the campus of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Reuters

Sarah Knapton

Deadly diseases such as Ebola are a "potentially major threat" to Europe, a leading health expert has warned.

The disease, which can be fatal for up to 90pc of infected victims, has killed more than 670 people in an outbreak across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In the UK, Public Health England issued an urgent warning to doctors to watch for signs of the lethal disease after an infected man was allowed to travel through an international hub.

Officials said the virus was "clearly not under control".

Mark Walport, the British government's chief scientific adviser, said the increasingly "interconnected" world was placing people at risk. "The UK is fortunate in its geographical position. We're an island," he said.

"But we are living in a completely interconnected world where disruptions in countries far away will have major impacts.

Ebola has never been reported in the UK and the risk of travellers in west Africa contracting the disease was "very low", Mr Walport said.

However, the death of an American, Patrick Sawer, in Lagos, Nigeria, has led to fears that the virus could spread beyond Africa, and even on to Ireland.

Mr Sawyer (40) had travelled from his home of Minnesota to attend the funeral of his sister, who died from Ebola.

It is unclear how he was allowed to board multiple international flights after he had started presenting symptoms. Despite vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea, the employee in the Liberian finance ministry was able to fly from Liberia, via Ghana, and Togo, before arriving in Nigeria, where he died.

Experts say he could have passed on the disease to anyone sitting near him or who used the same lavatory on one of the planes. They are now trying to trace fellow passengers.

Yesterday Asky Airlines, which Mr Sawyer used for his flights, said it was suspending flights to Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, and Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organisation is considering closing the borders to infected countries.

Meanwhile, a leading virologist who risked his own life to treat dozens of Ebola patients died yesterday from the disease.

Dr Sheik Humarr Khan, who was praised as a national hero for treating the disease in Sierra Leone, was confirmed dead by health ministry officials there. He had been hospitalised in quarantine.

Health workers have been especially vulnerable to contracting Ebola, which is spread through bodily fluids such as saliva, sweat, blood and urine.

Two American health workers are currently hospitalised with Ebola in neighboring Liberia.

The Ebola outbreak is the largest in history with deaths blamed on the disease not only in Sierra Leone and Liberia, but also Guinea and Nigeria.

The disease has no vaccine and no specific treatment, with a fatality rate of at least 60pc. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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