An Ebola Outbreak was confirmed in Guinea in March 2014 and quickly spread to Liberia.
Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a rare but severe disease caused by the Ebola virus. Ebola is highly transmissible by direct contact with organs or bodily fluids of living or dead infected persons and animals.
The UK government is closely monitoring the outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. This is the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in recent times.
On 7 August, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, chaired a further meeting of COBR to discuss Ebola and the current situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Ministers and officials from across Whitehall and other relevant organisations attended. Medical advice remains that the risk to the UK is very low. The UK has an established, well-tested system to deal with any known or suspected imported case of this disease. Read the full statement.
On 23 August, the Department of Health confirmed that a British national living in Sierra Leone had tested positive for Ebola virus infection. On 24 August the person was repatriated. Read an update on Ebola in a British national working in Sierra Leone.
Should I be worried about this outbreak?
This is not an issue that affects the UK directly. We have experienced scientists and doctors including at the Royal Free Infectious Disease Unit, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. We also have a lot of experience of dealing with dangerous diseases. The risk of this disease spreading fast in the UK is much lower because of that.
The UK government is taking precautionary measures and looking at capability but is confident that the UK has experienced people who are ready to deal with anything if it were to arrive here.
Listen to Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for International Development giving an overview of the outbreak so far, and outlining what the UK is doing to help contain the virus.
Read the latest assessment of the outbreak in West Africa and an assessment of the situation in the UK by Public Health England.
Following a meeting of government committee COBR, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said:
We’ve looked at how we are co-ordinating with our French and American colleagues under the World Health Organisation; we’ve considered what additional measures the UK could take to help control the outbreak in West Africa; and we’ve also looked at what measures we need to put in place on a precautionary basis in case any UK nationals in West Africa should become affected by the disease.
We do not, at the moment, think this is an issue that affects the UK directly.
What are the arrangements at the border?
Guidance has been issued to front line Border Force staff on how to identify and safely deal with suspected cases of Ebola. It makes clear what steps need to be taken should a passenger arrive at the border unwell.
If a person is identified at the border as being a potential carrier they will be immediately referred by a Border Force officer to a specialist medical care provider and reported to public health authorities.
Travellers to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are advised to follow the health advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
Get the latest travel advice for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Government actions to help affected countries
In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the Department for International Development is making a £2 million package of assistance available to partners including the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) and Médecins Sans Frontières that are operating in Sierra Leone and Liberia to tackle the outbreak.
This latest round of funding is in addition to support the UK has been providing since the outbreak of the disease in February 2014.
In Sierra Leone and Liberia the UK has been supporting agencies to increase awareness and understanding of the disease within the community, to improve treatment for those infected and to prevent its spread within and across borders. This includes working with the WHO to train health workers and provide the supplies they need to tackle the outbreak.
The UK has also funded initiatives to improve public information, including radio messaging programmes, on the outbreak in Sierra Leone to help control the spread of the disease.
In Liberia the UK has provided chlorine and other materials for hygiene and sanitising.
On 21 August the Department for International Development and the Wellcome trust announced a jointly funded call for research into managing Ebola outbreaks.
Other organisations helping to contain the outbreak
International agencies such as Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF, WHO, the UN Population Fund, USAID and the Red Cross have all been on the ground helping the health services of the countries affected. The international community has contributed more than £2 million in aid, including £300,000 from the EU.
Get the latest advice and information if you are a humanitarian aid worker.
On 2 and 3 July WHO convened a meeting in Accra to coordinate regional activity and develop an Ebola virus response strategy. The UK government is supporting this process.