British troops to be deployed to combat Embola threat

More than 750 military personnel and the medical ship RFA Argus are being sent to West Africa to help in the efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Dr. Michael OConnor and Dr. Mark Nunnally during Ebola preparedness training at the University of Chicago.

RFA Argus, which has a fully-equipped hospital including critical care and high-dependency units, will be sent to Sierra Leone, along with three Merlin helicopters, it is understood.

The latest deployment of British military personnel to the Ebola-affected region emerged following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee chaired by the Prime Minister.

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The announcement came as the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in a Texas hospital and the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that sporadic cases in Europe are “unavoidable”.

The Government has come under pressure to introduce screening at airports and other transport hubs to prevent the disease spreading in the UK.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “I welcome the Ministry of Defence’s proposals to send troops to Sierra Leone to help tackle Ebola. We must do all we can, both at the source and in the UK, to combat the spread of this virus.

“Our immediate response should be to tighten regulation and introduce measures such as screenings at airports, train stations and ferry ports to ensure that this deadly disease cannot take more lives.

“Immigration officers are not trained health professionals. Greater support must be offered to ensure that they are equipped to deal with this outbreak to prevent it reaching the UK.”

Authorities in Spain are dealing with the first case of the disease transmitted outside west Africa, in a hospital nurse who treated a priest flown to Madrid for treatment.

WHO regional director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab said: “Sporadic cases of Ebola virus disease in Europe are unavoidable. This is due to travel between Europe and affected countries.

“However, the risk of spread of Ebola in Europe is avoidable and extremely low.

“European countries are among the best prepared in the world to respond to viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF), including Ebola.

“There is a risk of accidental contamination for people exposed to Ebola patients. This risk can be, and must be, mitigated with strict infection control measures.

“Healthcare workers are on the front line of the Ebola fight and they are those most at risk of infection. They need to be protected and supported by all means.

“All countries have protocols and procedures that must be implemented when a case is suspected and it is important that these are followed diligently.”

She added that the WHO was ready to provide help and support where requested.

Last month, nurse William Pooley was successfully treated in an isolation unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital after contracting Ebola while working in Sierra Leone.

Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association’s senior director, said any Britons who suspected they had contracted Ebola should phone for medical assistance rather than walk into a hospital or go to their GP.