UK begins screening travellers for Ebola virus

Health officials are now screening passengers arriving at Heathrow airport from Ebola-affected countries.

The screening for Ebola which has been rolled out at Heathrow by Public Health England (PHE), will be extended to Gatwick and St Pancras (Eurostar), in passengers that Border Force officers identify as having travelled from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
PHE said passengers will have their temperature taken and complete a questionnaire asking about their current health, recent travel history and whether they might be at potential risk through contact with Ebola patients.

Based on the information provided and their temperature, passengers will either be given advice and allowed to continue their journey, or undergo a clinical assessment by PHE staff and if necessary be transferred to hospital for further tests.
Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, said: “Anyone who is well but may have been at increased risk of contact with the Ebola virus will be given printed information and a PHE contact number to call in case they develop symptoms. People infected with Ebola can only spread the virus to other people once they have developed symptoms, such as a fever. Even if someone has symptoms, the virus is only transmitted by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person.”

Similar screenings already take place at airports in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to detect those who may be infected before they leave these countries.

“Although no system can completely prevent a case of Ebola coming into the UK, enhanced screening in high volume ports of entry will ensure that individuals at risk know exactly what to do if they start feeling ill, and can receive the expert advice they need immediately,” Dr Cosford said. “Overall the risk of Ebola in the UK remains low, and we have a world-class domestic health system that is ready to respond if we do see a case in the UK.”

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