London’s Heathrow airport is to start screening for Ebola among passengers flying into the UK from countries at risk.
A “handful” of cases – thought to be fewer than 10 – are expected to reach the UK before Christmas.
Screening will start at Terminal 1, before being extended to other terminals, Gatwick airport and Eurostar by the end of the week.
In September, around 1,000 people arrived in the UK from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa.
People flying from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be identified by Border Force officers.
Nurses and consultants from Public Health England will then carry out the actual screening.
Passengers will have their temperatures taken, complete a risk questionnaire and have contact details recorded.
Anyone with suspected Ebola will be taken to hospital.
Heathrow airport is to start screening for Ebola among passengers flying into the UK from countries at risk
Passengers deemed to be at high risk due to contact with Ebola patients, but who are displaying no symptoms, will be contacted daily by Public Health England.
Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
A spokesman for Heathrow said the welfare of “our passengers and colleagues is always our main priority”.
He added: “We would like to reassure passengers that the government assesses the risk of a traveler contracting Ebola to be low.”
There is no direct flight to the UK from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea so people could arrive at airports that do not screen passengers.
Instead “highly visible information” will be in place at all entry points to the UK.
The Department of Health estimates that 85% of all arrivals to the UK from affected countries will come through Heathrow.
However, screening arrivals marks a rapid shift in policy from the UK government.
Just last week, it said there were no plans for screening as people were tested before leaving affected countries.
The WHO said it was unnecessary and that it would mean screening “huge numbers of low-risk people”.
Anyone in the UK with suspected Ebola will be taken to hospital and blood samples will be taken to Public Health England’s specialist laboratory for rapid testing.
If the test is positive, then the patient will be transferred to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London. It is the centre that cared for the British nurse William Pooley, who contracted Ebola in West Africa.
Hospitals in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield are on standby to offer similar facilities if there is a sudden surge in Ebola cases. A total of 26 isolation beds could be prepared at the four hospitals.
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New York’s JFK airport has started to implement the Ebola screening measures on Saturday, October 11.
The recent outbreak has killed more than 4,000 people.
Passengers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the worst-hit countries – will have their temperatures taken and have to answer a series of questions.
Checks at O’Hare in Chicago, Newark, Washington’s Dulles and Atlanta’s airport will begin in the coming days.
This comes after the first person died of Ebola in Texas on Wednesday, October 8.
Thomas Eric Duncan had travelled to the US from Liberia, and was only diagnosed with the disease once he arrived in Dallas.
The latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) show the number of deaths attributed to the haemorrhagic fever has risen to 4,033.
The vast majority of the fatalities – 4,024 – were in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The screening measures at JFK are starting on Saturday, with border agents checking for signs of illness such as high temperatures.
New York’s JFK airport has started to implement the Ebola screening measures on Saturday, October 11 (photo Getty Images)
Passengers from the three African nations will also be asked about their travel details before leaving for the US and also if they have been in contact with anyone suffering from Ebola.
If they answer “Yes” to any questions or are running a fever, a representative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will intervene and provide a public health assessment.
Factsheets will be distributed to travelers with information on symptoms of Ebola and instructions to call a doctor if they become ill within three weeks.
There are currently no scheduled direct flights from the three countries to the US, with most passengers from Africa travelling via Europe.
All passengers travelling from airports in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are already being screened for symptoms when they depart.
JFK and the four other airports account for 90% of air travelers arriving in the US. As many as 160 people enter the US from the worse-affected countries each day.
“There is no cause for alarm,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier, adding that the city was “particularly well prepared”.
“Physicians, hospitals, emergency medical personnel are trained in how to identify this disease and how to quickly isolate anyone who may be afflicted.”
To test the readiness of New York, people pretending to display Ebola symptoms – the so-called “simulated patients” – have been walking into hospital emergency rooms to see if there were any weaknesses in the new system.
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