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Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

14 October 2014

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Ebola virus_shutterstock_222422917.jpgI have just read that a Texan health worker who treated Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan before he died is also infected with the virus. Duncan, who caught the virus in his native Liberia, died on Wednesday. This is the second person in the USA to be diagnosed with Ebola. This health worked had been wearing full protective clothing during all his contact with this patient.

It has recently been announced that passengers arriving at Heathrow and Gatwick airports from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will be taken to an area of the airport designated for the screenings. Officials will question each passenger to find out if they have possibly been exposed to Ebola. Staff will take the passengers’ body temperature and check for other symptoms of the disease. Apparently rail passengers arriving in Kent and London on the Eurostar from Paris and Brussels will also be screened.

One of my friends is going to America next week and has received a letter stating all travellers to America will have their temperatures taken. I feel quite cynical about this. How is taking a temperature really going to screen for Ebola? I do not think I am alone thinking this. Experts say airport screening may have limited effect. David Heymann, professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who is also chairman of Public Health England, said there was a danger of creating a false sense of security. People in the incubation period of Ebola will not know that they are infected and will not usually have a fever. Some passengers may well lie if they think they are at risk of Ebola as they will not want their travel plans to be stopped.

Surely the most important response is better detection and rapid response. It is going to be an interesting and potentially frightening next few weeks with regard to Ebola.


Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!

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