UNITED KINGDOM, Oct 19 – A huge Ebola scare was launched at a UK hospital this weekend after a man who returned from Africa arrived at A&E complaining of a fever. Doctors launched a full-scare alert after the unidentified man turned up at Colchester Hospital feeling unwell. The man – believed to be in his 50s – was immediately placed in isolation and put through a series of tests as specially-trained staff took over his care.
All hospitals in Britain have been put on special standby in the last fortnight for suspected cases of the deadly disease and Saturday’s incident triggered the procedure. The man was put into the specialised ward as a precaution. A spokesman for the 600-bed hospital, which has 1,500 medical staff, said: “It is very, very unlikely to be Ebola as he has not been to any of the countries where it has been reported so far.”
Public Health England has told the hospital the man’s criteria for having caught Ebola was “too low” for testing but said he should be tested for other diseases relating to the time he spent in African swamps. The man has been put on a course of antibiotics and was today said to “stable and comfortable”. The World Health Organization estimates the death toll from the deadliest ever outbreak of Ebola to have topped 4,400. It has branded the outbreak the “most severe acute health emergency in modern times”.
West Africa is the worst affected area. In Liberia, over 2,300 people have died, while in Sierra Leone and Guinea the death toll stands at nearly 1,000 each. The deadly virus has also reached Nigeria, Senegal, Spain and the US but outbreaks have been contained so far. Meanwhile, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that the UK would probably see cases here before Christmas.
He said: “I think we will see someone with Ebola arriving in the UK and the Chief Medical Officer thinks it will be a handful of cases in the next three months. “We have to be prepared. We have very strict procedures and we have to make sure everyone knows those procedures.” His comments came as UK health officials were banned from shaking hands with passengers arriving from Ebola-hit countries just days after the practice was defended.
Immigration officers at Heathrow Airport were slammed for shaking hands with passengers on the first day of Britain’s airport screening procedures earlier this week. Public Health England, in charge of the screening process, had defended the practice. But the organisation told staff not to shake hands with passengers as an “extra precaution”.