Friday 15 December 2017

Woman tested for Ebola after falling ill in Scotland

A Liberian woman holds up a pamphlet with guidance on how to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading, in the city of Monrovia (AP)
A Liberian woman holds up a pamphlet with guidance on how to prevent the Ebola virus from spreading, in the city of Monrovia (AP)

Tom Jennings

A woman is being tested for the Ebola virus in Scotland after falling ill at an immigration removal centre.

Health authorities have confirmed they are investigating a "possible" case of the deadly virus but have said it so far appears "highly unlikely" the test will turn out to be positive.

The woman is believed to have arrived from Sierra Leone, one of the countries most affected by the epidemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives across West Africa.

She was being held at the Dungavel Detention Centre in South Lanarkshire and has now been taken to hospital for tests.

A spokesman for NHS Lanarkshire said: "We are currently investigating a possible case of Viral Haemorrhagic Fever (Ebola).

The numbers of killed by Ebola in West Africa may "vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak," the World Health Organisation (WHO) admitted yesterday.

The UN health agency said it was prepared for the crisis to continue for months.

With more than 1,060 deaths and 1,975 ill, the Ebola outbreak is already the deadliest ever.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee has banned athletes from West African countries affected by the virus from competing in some events at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China.

The IOC and local organisers issued a joint statement saying they had worked out a safety policy in conjunction with the WHO.They said that while there were no suspected cases, organisers had decided to bar three athletes from competing in combat sports and events in the pool as a precaution.

"Together we have developed a policy which balances the health needs of all, with respect for the rights of the young athletes from the region," a statement said.

The IOC insisted that all countries were welcome to attend the Games, which will run until August 28, but athletes from the affected region would be subject to regular physical tests.

Liberian officials faced a difficult choice: deciding which handful of Ebola patients will receive an experimental drug that could prove life-saving, ineffective or even harmful.

ZMapp, the untested Ebola drug, arrived in the West African country late on Wednesday. A day later, no one had yet received the treatment, which officials said would go to three people. The outbreak, which was first identified in March in Guinea and since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, has overwhelmed the already strained health systems in West Africa and raised questions about whether authorities are doing enough to respond.

There is no licensed treatment for Ebola, a virus transmitted by contact with bodily fluids, so doctors have turned to the limited supply of untested drugs to treat some cases.

The Liberian government had previously said two doctors would receive ZMapp, but it was unclear who else would. Information Minister Lewis Brown said it would probably be another health care worker.

These are the last known doses of ZMapp left. The San Diego-based company that developed it has said it will take months to build up even a modest supply.

The outbreak has sparked an international debate over the ethics of giving such untested drugs to the sick. So far, only two Americans and one Spaniard have received ZMapp. The Americans are improving - but it is unclear what role the drug has played. The Spaniard died within days.

Irish Independent

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