What’s the Ebola virus and how much danger is the UK in?

The Ebola virus has killed 672 people in West Africa since February and is a “threat” to the UK, according to the Foreign Secretary.

Philip Hammond will be chairing an emergency Cobra meeting on the virus later today.

“As far as we are aware, there are no British nationals so far affected by this outbreak and certainly no cases in the UK. However, the prime minister does regard it as a very serious threat and I will be chairing a Cobra meeting later today to assess the situation and look at any measures that we need to take either in the UK, or in our diplomatic posts abroad in order to manage the threat,” he told Sky News.

There are no confirmed cases in the UK so far, but one man is currently being tested for the highly-contagious virus.

What is Ebola?

The incurable virus is transmitted through contact with fluids of infected people or animals, like urine, sweat, blood and saliva, even after they have died.

Quarantine and intensive rehydration treatment is used to contain and treat the disease. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, and internal and external bleeding.

What’s the risk to the UK?

These days with so much foreign travel, a disease that emerges in another country can soon spread to the UK.

Sir Mark Walport, the government’s chief scientific adviser, told the Daily Telegraph: “The most dangerous infections of humans have always been those which have emerged from other species. They are a potential major threat to us. Emerging infectious disease is a global grand challenge.

“We were lucky with Sars. But we have to do the best horizon scanning. We have to think about risk and managing risk appropriately.”

However, Public Health England said: “…the risk for tourists, visitors or expatriate residents in affected areas, is still considered very low if elementary precautions are followed.”

And a Department of Health official said in the Guardian the UK leads the world in protecting the public from infectious diseases, adding: “We are well-prepared to identify and deal with any potential cases of Ebola, though there has never been a case in this country. Any patients with suspected symptoms can be diagnosed within 24 hours and they would also be isolated at a dedicated unit to keep the public safe. Our specialist staff are also working with the World Health Organisation to help tackle the outbreak in Africa.”

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