No HSE high alert despite North ebola scare

A suspected ebola case in Belfast will not put the Republic on heightened alert for the killer disease, the HSE has insisted.

With a patient being tested for exposure to the lethal virus in the North, health chiefs here say their contingency plans do not need changing.

The North’s Public Health Agency (PHA) said the patient, who is understood to have recently returned from west Africa, has already tested positive for malaria.

The person is being kept in isolation at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, with a PHA spokesperson saying there was no need for alarm.

“A person who has recently travelled in an area affected by ebola is being assessed in accordance with the agreed risk assessment.

“The PHA is liaising with colleagues and has advised that there is no increased risk to the wider community.

“Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as ebola haemorrhagic fever, can be a severe illness in humans. The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days.

“It is important to note that the likelihood of contracting EVD is extremely low unless the person had come into contact with blood or body fluids of a symptomatic person. Therefore we would like to stress that the risk to the public is low.

“There is no change to the current situation in Northern Ireland in that the risk to the public here is very low.

“The patient being treated in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, has tested positive for malaria, and an ebola test is being done as a precautionary measure. A further update will be given when results are available,” the PHA spokesperson said.

The HSE does not expect to alter, or reassess, its plans for dealing with an outbreak, or suspected outbreak, in the Republic, a spokesperson said.

The Oireachtas health committee is to discuss the implications of the ebola threat at its meeting this week, chairperson Jerry Buttimer said.

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