Ebola screening due to begin at Heathrow

Enhanced screening for ebola will begin at Britain’s biggest airport today as prime minister David Cameron insisted "vigorous steps" were being taken to prevent the deadly virus reaching the UK.

Ebola screening due to begin at Heathrow

Meanwhile, a flight that landed in Boston last night was boarded by emergency responders after five passengers reported “exhibiting flu-like symptoms”.

The responders from Boston EMS and the Massachusetts Port (Massport) Authority Fire Department boarded the flight, which arrived at Logan Airport from Dubai wearing hazard suits, according to an airport official.

Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis stressed “none of the five were traveling from West Africa”.

The regularly scheduled Emirates Flight 237 Boeing 777 left Dubai at 8:47am local time and landed at Boston’s Terminal E at 2:10pm local time, according to the live flight tracking service Flight Aware.

Boston health officials confirmed that the five people were last night on their way to nearby hospitals.

It is Logan’s first potential Ebola scare since Massport said just last week that Logan was not among five US airports designated to perform Ebola screenings on passengers by the Department of Homeland Security because it receives no direct flights from West Africa — ground zero for the killer virus outbreak.

Meanwhile, doctors at the nearby Beth Israel hospital released said a patient also suffering from symptoms resembling those of Ebola is unlikely to have the virus.

In Britain, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said checks would take place at Heathrow’s Terminal 1 before they were expanded to cover Gatwick airport and Eurostar rail terminals by the end of next week, as the death toll in West Africa reached more than 4,000 people.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Hunt said: “Whilst there are no direct flights from the affected region, there are indirect routes into the UK.

“In the next week, Public Health England will start screening and monitoring UK-bound air passengers identified by the Border Force coming on to the main routes from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

“This will allow potential ebola virus carriers arriving in the UK to be identified, tracked and given rapid access to expert health advice should they develop symptoms.”

Anyone who tests positive for ebola will be transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in north London, the UK’s specialist centre for treating the most dangerous infectious diseases, Hunt said.

There are also plans to increase bed capacity for ebola patients in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield, to make a total of 26 beds available, he added.

“I do believe we are amongst the best and most prepared countries in the world,” he said.

Hunt said current advice suggested there would be fewer than 10 cases of ebola in the UK over the next three months.

He told MPs a “handful of cases” would be diagnosed in the country in that period, but refused to give an exact number when challenged to reveal the “worst-case scenario” by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

The UK has committed £125m (€158m) to tackling ebola, Hunt said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation has called the ebola outbreak “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times”.

The ebola epidemic has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, according to WHO figures published last week.

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