A scene guaranteed to cause panic among the public included paramedics in protective suits undertaking a huge exercise at key locations around the UK on Saturday in a bid to determine whether Britain will be able to deal with a possible Ebola outbreak.
Actors, posing as potentially infected patients, agreed to be transported on trolleys to test the emergency service and the Government’s response to a disease which has resulted in the death of more than 4000 people globally.
The scenarios included calling paramedics to a Gateshead shopping centre after the collapse of a person who was not feeling well, and a person visiting a walk-in centre in Hillingdon with flu-like symptoms after a recent trip to West Africa.
This eight-hour exercise came after screening of passengers from Ebola areas was introduced at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and at the Eurostar terminal to try and detect anyone who may be displaying some of the symptoms of the disease.
Similar precautions are underway in the US, with screening being done at New York’s JFK airport and some other airports will commence the process soon.
Passengers from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia will have their temperatures taken and asked several questions regarding their potential exposure to the virus.
These developments have come after a UN expert stated that the world will have to live with Ebola ‘forever, unless action is taken globally to stop the virus in its tracks.
The UK’s effort to aid in containment of the outbreak has resulted in a medical ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus, being loaded with supplies for a mission to Sierra Leone. Around 750 Ministry of Defence personnel are due to be sent to Sierra Leone to assist the government with crisis.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said the exercises that were being carried were very useful and he feels confident that the UK has robust plans in place in the event that they get an Ebola case.
Part of the exercise included the transfer of potential Ebola victims to specially prepared hospital facilities to test how the staff would respond to the crisis without placing themselves at risk.
The staged scenario involving the collapsed shopper at a shopping centre in Gateshead, resulted in a transfer to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and placement in an isolation ward.
Once the initial tests ruled out malaria, samples were quickly sent to PHE Porton Down for testing. Once Ebola had been diagnosed, the ‘patient’ was transferred to Royal Free Hospital, London.
The Ambulance Trust, PHE and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, simulated tracing the patient’s movements and known contacts.
The latest figures from the World Health Organisation indicate the number of fatalities from the virus to have risen to 4033. Most of these, around 4024, occurred in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
In a Madrid, Spain hospital, 16 people were being monitored for Ebola signs, Anger continued to increase regarding the handling of the first outbreak outside Africa, by the Spanish government.
Teresa Romero, a 44-year old nurse who contracted the virus after she cared for two infected priests, who had returned to Spain, but she remains seriously ill, although her condition is said to have improved. She became the first person thus far to test positive for Ebola via a transmission within the country.
She is believed to have contracted the disease during late September in a Madrid hospital whilst caring for a Spanish missionary who had been infected with the virus in Africa.
Three people who had made contact with Mrs Romero, a cleaner, another nurse and a hairdresser, have also been admitted to the isolation unit at the Carlos III hospital.
A senior health coordinator for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Jota Echevarria, said correct containment procedures had not been carried out in Spain. He said that medical staff with the responsibility to treat Ebola patients in Sierra Leone undergo rigorous training, particularly on how to put on and take off the protective suits they use.
In Liberia, 41 of the UN peacekeeping mission were under ‘close medical observation’ after an international team member contracted the disease. According to the mission this was a precautionary measure and none of the staff members have shown signs of the disease.
Internet intelligence monitored by counter-terrorism agencies has stated that jihadist terrorists have discussed the use of the Ebola virus in an attack on the west. This worrying development indicates that one group which is aligned to Isil has discussed the possibility of fighters infecting themselves to carry out suicide attacks on America and its allies.
The symptoms of the virus include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and at times, internal bleeding. It is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids.
People in Britain are being advised that although the chances of developing Ebola in their country is extremely low, they should ring 111 before they go directly to their GP or the hospital A&E, if they suffer from any of the symptoms, or have had contact with an Ebola patient. In the event that they have not had contact with an Ebola patient, they should contact 111, A&E or their GP, if required.
Image Credit: CDC Global