I am mystified at our inability to monitor people at risk from Ebola virus coming to this country.
I have just gone through a series of hoops to have my dog immunised for travel in Europe. I now have a pet passport and will have to have her wormed at a vets in France before the animal can return to the UK.
The passport has been checked by vets in the UK and verified by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). No doubt when we finally travel to Europe it will be inspected and checked again and I will be questioned about the dog. She has chip information which is another requirement.
And yet I saw a top medic interviewed on television today who says hospitals are going to have to monitor people with mysterious symptoms and it will be up to the individual to point out that they have just returned from West Africa. Ministers said Britain had the expertise and resources to deal with the deadly Ebola virus should it come to the UK, after holding an emergency Cobra meeting on Wednesday to consider the threat from the disease’s deadliest ever outbreak.
But during the programme I did this morning on Marlow fm called Mid Morning Matters, Sky news reported that even NHS staff are worried that they know little about the illness. There appears to be confusion, especially about monitoring the whereabouts of people at risk. Surely if animals have to have special passports and checks it shouldn’t be beyond our high security, high tech world to monitor people at customs and highlighting those at risk?
Surely people returning or visiting from locations where epidemics are killing hundreds should be screened before they travel and on arrival, just as my dog has had to be screened at the vets and had her health checked before being given a passport?
I am not wishing to be scaremongering but it is frightening that the Ebola outbreak spreading across West Africa is being described as the biggest outbreak ever recorded and to date it has killed nearly 700 people. There is also no known cure.
The aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has described the disease as “out of control”, and last week fears grew of a global outbreak after a case was confirmed in Lagos, Nigeria.
The disease first emerged in 1976, and has since then killed an estimated 2,000 people. Previous outbreaks have had mortality rates as high as 90 per cent, though the chance of dying from the most recent strand appears to be at around 60 per cent.
I gather from the news that boffins are trying to find a cure and in the meantime medics are being told to be vigilant and isolate suspected victims. I say people ought to be screened abroad as well as on arrival. What do you think?
Carla Delaney Communications
Business Writer of the Year Award Winner