Expert says Ebola risk to Scotland ‘very low’

A health worker protests outside the hospital in Madrid where a nurse is being treated for the virus. Picture: Getty

A health worker protests outside the hospital in Madrid where a nurse is being treated for the virus. Picture: Getty

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A HEALTH expert has reassured Scots that the risk of Ebola reaching the country remains “very low” after the Scottish Government’s emergency committee gathered to discuss the outbreak.

First Minister Alex Salmond and Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday chaired meetings of their respective emergency committees to discuss the potential threat to the UK.

As they met it was announced Britain is to deploy more than 750 military personnel, including 40 from The Royal Scots Borderers, Ist Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, to West Africa to help with the establishment of treatment centres and a training academy as part of increased efforts to prevent the global spread of the disease.

More than 3000 people have been killed by the deadly disease, most of them in West Africa, while cases have been reported in Spain.

But despite predictions that Britain has a 50-50 chance of Ebola reaching home shores, Dr Peter Barlow, an expert in respiratory ‘immunology and infection’ at Edinburgh Napier University, insisted there was no immediate danger. He said: “I think the public are starting to pay more attention to the pandemic following the Spanish incident, in which there are now five people in quarantine.

“Spain is practically on our doorstep, and so many people are starting to get worried. In the UK, there has been one patient who was diagnosed with Ebola, but he contracted it while volunteering in West Africa.

“She was then very successfully treated in London.

“No-one has contracted the illness here, and that should be very reassuring.

“That being said, I would expect there will be several more cases. I very much doubt it will be limited to the five in Spain.”

NHS Scotland has issued a flowchart, pointing out the warning signs that staff should look out for at teaching hospitals in the Lothians, including Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

It includes special advice for dealing with unwell students from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries from where the outbreak has stemmed.

Bosses at Edinburgh Airport said it was “business as usual” although they said they were working closely with the port health authority and Police Scotland.

Experts from Edinburgh University have also been working to learn more about the strain of Ebola in a bid to develop future therapies.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the necessary precautions were in place to contain and isolate the virus effectively, should a case appear in Scotland.

He said: “Scotland has a robust health protection surveillance system which monitors global disease outbreaks and ensures that we are fully prepared to respond to such situations.”