WHO (World Health Org) says Ebola is 'most severe acute health emergency in modern times' - Telegraph - Liar Liar!
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WHO (World Health Org) says Ebola is 'most severe acute health emergency in modern times' - Telegraph

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The World Health Organisation issues stark warning as the Government is set to announce "important changes" in the NHS to tackle a possible outbreak.

11:35AM BST 13 Oct 2014

The Ebola outbreak is the "most severe acute health emergency in modern times", the World Health Organisation has warned.

The agency's director-general Margaret Chan said the epidemic had proved "the world is ill-prepared to respond to any severe, sustained, and threatening public health emergency".

She added that new cases of Ebola are now "rising exponentially" in the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

In a statement to a regional health conference in the Philippine capital Manila, she said: "I have never seen a health event threaten the very survival of societies and governments in already very poor countries.

"I have never seen an infectious disease contribute so strongly to potential state failure."

Her statement was read by a WHO official who said Mrs Chan was unable to attend because "she is fully occupied with coordinating the international response to what is unquestionably the most severe acute public health emergency in modern times".

The warning comes as the Government is set to announce "important changes" in the NHS to tackle a possible outbreak.

Enhanced screening for the virus at two of the country's biggest airports is due to be introduced this week after Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that calls to the NHS's non-emergency 111 phoneline will also be screened for potential Ebola sufferers.

Call handlers on the service are to question anyone ringing up with possible symptoms of the disease about their recent travel history to see if they have been to west Africa, where the death toll has passed 4,000 people, Mr Hunt said.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We have to prepare for the situation getting worse. I want to make sure we are prepared.

"It is now more likely that someone will eventually be diagnosed in the UK with Ebola. It is crucial that we are prepared for what happens when they make their first contact with the NHS.

"That's why we're introducing later to Parliament some very important changes across the NHS just to prepare ourselves for the eventuality it might get worse."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt (Christopher Pledger/Telegraph)

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said enhanced screening for Ebola is due to be introduced "in the next couple of days", while Gatwick and Eurostar rail terminals are also set to introduce checks.

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said: "We have been in constant contact with Public Health England on planning and contingency measures and will continue to work closely with them in relation to Ebola.

"While the risk of contracting Ebola remains low, any additional screening measures following Government advice will be implemented. In addition, our airport medical responders are fully prepared to recognise the symptoms of Ebola and take any necessary action in the event of a suspected case."

Mr Hunt has insisted that the UK has "robust and well-tested systems for dealing with any imported case of Ebola" but the need for further measures was "under review and we will never be complacent".

He said: "Now all call handlers on the NHS 111 service are asking anyone reporting potential symptoms of Ebola, such as respiratory problems, high temperatures, or diarrhoea and vomiting, about their recent travel history, so appropriate help can be given to people who might be at higher risk of having come into contact with the virus.

 

 

"If the person with symptoms has recently been to west Africa and is at high risk of having been in contact with Ebola, 111 will immediately refer them to local emergency services for assessment by ambulance personnel with appropriate protective equipment.

"The NHS and Public Health England are well prepared for Ebola, and I am determined to make sure that we continue to do everything we can to protect the public, based on the best medical advice."

UK chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said the country should expect a "handful" of Ebola cases in the coming months after a major exercise to test the country's readiness for such cases was carried out over the weekend.

Britain's latest Ebola aid flight delivering beds, personal protection suits, tents and 10 vehicles landed in Freetown today, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said. It includes equipment for a 92-bed unit being built by a UK team.

Aid delivered so far includes ambulances, water tanks, incinerators for disposing of clothing and other materials, generators and personal protection equipment.

The United States has announced its second case of Ebola, in a Texas hospital worker who was in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the virus last Wednesday.

Officials in Dallas said there had been been a breach of protocol that led to the unnamed woman becoming infected after she wore full protective gear while treating Mr Duncan.

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