A man sneezed on a plane in the US and joked ‘Don’t worry it’s only Ebola.’ This caused a major incident [see picture above]. In Texas, a man with Ebola who had just come from an affected African country was sent home from hospital and told he had a cold even though he explained where he was from and of his fear that his fever was due to Ebola . This demonstrates the confused and inconsistent response to Ebola
Ebola – a viral disease with a 50% mortality [see my earlier blog on Ebola] has been headline news with Jeremy Hunt [the Health Secretary] saying that it could be as bad as AIDS. The Government has introduced screening for Ebola at airports. This just deepens my belief that politicians should not be in charge of health matters.
No, it is not going to be as bad as AIDS. The Chief Medical Officer has said that the UK can expect a handful of cases by December but in the UK isolation facilities can be expected to contain this. The medical advice regarding screening at airports and ports is unequivocal. It is a waste of money and provides false reassurance. Today’s editorial in the BMJ compared it with airport screening in Canada during the SARS epidemic, which cost $15 million; used thermal scanners and specially trained nurses and did not pick up a single person. SARS has a very short incubation period 12-48 hrs while Ebola has an incubation period of up to 2 weeks so the majority of those affected would not have any symptoms till after entering the UK and screening for Ebola would be even more pointless. It would lead to substantial delays for passengers and isolation for all those waiting for a test would be difficult.
Calculations in the BMJ editorial shows that ‘an entrance policy will have no meaningful effect on the risk of importing Ebola into the UK. Better use of the UK’s resources would be to immediately scale up our presence in West Africa- building new treatment centres at a rate that outstrips the epidemic’ [BMJ 18/10/14].