HOSPITALS in Lothian are preparing for potentially deadly Ebola cases – with experts warning it is “very likely” to arrive in the Capital.
A designated isolation room has been established at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary while A&E staff have been kitted out with protective face masks and gowns to deal with suspected cases.
Patients would then be transferred to the infectious disease unit at the Western General, one of four sites in Scotland to have round-the-clock specialist cover in place.
One member of staff said the precautions were reminiscent of swine flu, “only more terrifying”.
Dr Devi Sridhar, a senior lecturer in global health policy at Edinburgh University, said it was vital medical staff were properly trained and equipped to deal with Ebola patients.
She said: “I think it is very likely that we are going to see infections here and the best we can do is make sure the health system is in place to respond as quickly and effectively as possible.
“I doubt we will see an outbreak like in West Africa. It will be cases here and there because our health system is so good and there is a lot of work going on so that when people present themselves, the right measures are taken.
“It is important health workers are trained in how to follow the right precautionary measures to ensure they don’t expose themselves.”
All frontline healthcare workers in Scotland are being advised on a regular basis about the increase in cases of Ebola. More than 4000 lives have been claimed in West Africa, while a nursing assistant in Spain, the first to contract the disease in Europe, is in a stable condition.
Health Protection Scotland said well-rehearsed protocols were in place for the isolation, transport, investigation and medical care of any suspected Ebola cases in Scotland.
A spokesman said: “Health Protection Scotland is regularly in touch with NHS staff across Scotland and they have all been advised for there to be a heightened awareness of this illness and to look for the symptoms.”
Passengers arriving at Heathrow airport from Ebola-affected countries are now being screened, while officials at Edinburgh Airport said it was following civil aviation guidance.
Dr David Farquharson, medical director for NHS Lothian, said the board has “considerable experience and expertise” in detecting and responding to cases of infectious disease.
He said: “Our emergency departments have also been preparing over the last few months. We will continue to test and refine our robust emergency and isolation plans using exercises and act on guidance from colleagues from organisations such as Health Protection Scotland.”
Contracted from animals
EBOLA is a viral illness of which the initial symptoms can include a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat but can lead to internal and external bleeding, according to the World Health Organisation.
Originally contracted from infected animals including chimpanzees and fruit bats, it then spreads between humans by contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or through contact with contaminated environments.
The death toll from the outbreak has risen to 4447.