GP Ebola advice updated as research warns of infected patients boarding flights

Updated guidance has been issued to GPs who see patients suspected to have Ebola, as researchers predicted three people infected with the disease would board an international flight from affected West African countries every month if exit screening was not in place.

Ebola: GP advice update (Photo: SPL)
Ebola: GP advice update (Photo: SPL)

The RCGP has contributed to updated guidance from Public Health England (PHE) on assessing patients with suspected Ebola in primary care, and the DH has also issued a patient safety alert on the disease for all NHS clinical staff.

Similar guidance has also been published in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Lancet has today published research that shows the value of exit screening currently in place at international airports in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Three infected patients fly per month

Using World Health Organisation Ebola surveillance data and flight patterns from the three countries, the Canadian researchers predicted that without the checks just under three travellers (2.8) infected with Ebola would fly abroad each month.

They found that the UK was the destination for 8.7 per cent of the just under 500,000 passengers who left the three affected countries on board international commercial flights last year.

The updated PHE guidance for primary care teams says any patients suspected to have Ebola should be isolated in a separate room immediately and infectious disease teams contacted immediately.

Practices urged to print advice

The RCGP has urged practices to print out the guidance for easy access, and it has encouraged practices to fill in a section in the guidance with space for contact details of the practices’s local health protection team and local infectious disease physician.

The DH patient safety alert says it is ‘unlikely but not impossible’ that people affected in West Africa could arrive in the UK while incubating the disease and then develop symptoms after their return.

It advises that a thorough travel history is of ‘critical importance’ to identify patients who may show early symptoms of Ebola.

NHS England has also produced a poster to tell GP surgery staff what to do in case of suspected Ebola cases, and a poster that can be displayed in public areas of practices encouraging patients to talk to a member of staff, without touching anyone, or call 111, if they have visited any of the three affected West African countries and have a fever or feel unwell.

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