With an apparently increasing likelihood of the Ebola virus eventually coming to the British Isles, would the Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Public Health please advise what preparations KCC's Public Health team have already made or are making for the immediate containment of any case - or epidemic in Kent - should this sadly come to pass.
The outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD), first reported in March 2014, continues in three countries in West Africa, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Additionally other countries have experienced importation of cases (Nigeria, Senegal, USA) and limited local transmission has occurred (Nigeria and Spain).
Ebola can only be transmitted from one person to another by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected person. No cases of Ebola have been contracted in the UK; the overall risk still remains low, but never the less there remains a risk of importing cases from West Africa into the UK.
Public Health England (PHE) as the lead agency is co-ordinating the NHS response. PHE is providing regular information to front-line health services including Hospitals, Microbiologists, GP's, Ambulance Services, Community Pharmacists and Dentists, the Border Agency and the Private Hospital sector. Advice has also been provided to universities, schools and other childcare settings.
If a case is identified here in the UK there is robust, well developed, well tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases such as Ebola.
Enhanced screening in Heathrow, Gatwick and Eurostar has been recently initiated on the basis that these are the significant ports of entry for people travelling to the UK from West Africa.
The County Council has no specific responsibilities in respect of Ebola other than to gain assurance that PHE and the NHS have robust local systems. We must ensure that our role of informing and warning is co-ordinated with the NHS and PHE. I have asked for assurance that suitable protections are in place at the Port of Dover, to ensure, that people entering through the port are screened as appropriate. We are aware of the situation in Calais of people seeking entry to the UK and, therefore, it is very important that suitable protections are in place at Dover. Our communications team have good links with both PHE and local NHS.
In summary the risk of Ebola virus disease remains low in Kent and the UK. Never the less there is a real risk; PHE and the NHS have plans in place to prepare for and manage that risk.