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UK hospitals on 'alert' after Ebola outbreak in Africa

The Health Protection Agency has told ITV News hospitals in the UK have been put on "alert" after an outbreak of the Ebola virus killed at least 78 people in Guinea, West Africa. But the HPA said it was "extremely unlikely" it would reach Britain.

ITV News' Science and Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

Read: How to spot signs and symptoms of deadly Ebola virus

Read: UK hospitals 'on alert' after deadly Ebola outbreak in Guinea

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Health Protection Agency: UK hospitals on Ebola 'alert'

The Health Protection Agency's director of Global Health has said that UK hospitals have been put on "alert" over Ebola after an outbreak of the virus killed at least 78 in Guinea, West Africa.

Dr Brian McClusky told ITV News: "What we have done is make sure all hospitals in the UK have been alerted, so if a patient turns up, who has those symptoms, who has been to that part of West Africa, they can be tested and looked after in specialist facilities in London.

He added: "The chance of it spreading outside West Africa is relatively small, because essentially people get ill relatively quickly. They are not likely get on a plane and survive a journey.

"It's technically possible that somebody could get on a plane and arrive in the UK. It's extremely unlikely."

Read: 'Unprecedented' outbreak of Ebola in Guinea kills at least 78

WHO official takes swipe at MSF over Ebola severity

The Head of PR for the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken to Twitter to downplay the severity of the current Ebola virus in Guinea, with Médecins Sans Frontières.

MSF started by tweeting that this type of Ebola virus "kills 9 out of every 10 patients," before Gregory Härtl of WHO jumped in and told them not to "exaggerate."

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#Ebola in Guinea: "This is the most deadly strain of Ebola virus. It kills 9 out of 10 patients." http://t.co/a9DUuuBsQi

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.@msf Don't exaggerate. #Ebola can kill up to 90% of those infected and in this particular outbreak fatality rate is less than 67%. #Ebola

Härtl continued to the discuss the issues with other followers, especially the issue of travel bans and airports.

Read more: Ebola is a 'regional threat' say West African ministers

D1a495193a7ad5a74b28cedce93df56d_normal

.@_jgarcia1 @who Impossible. You want to disrupt the economic life of a country, a region becuz of 130 suspect and confirmed cases? #Ebola

More: 'Unprecedented' outbreak of Ebola in Guinea kills at least 78

What is the Ebola virus?

The Ebola virus is named after the Ebola River Valley in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, where the first reported outbreak was reported in 1976.

Medecins Sans Frontieres describes Ebola as:

One of the world’s most deadly diseases. It is a highly infectious virus that can kill up to 90 percent of the people who catch it, causing terror among infected communities.

– MSF

Ebola spreads in the blood and shuts down the immune system at first, causing a high fever, headache and muscle pain.

The World Health Organisation categorises the Ebola virus as follows:

  • Outbreaks occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals, mainly bats, and spreads through human-to-human transmission.
  • No specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.

Read more: 'Unprecedented' outbreak of Ebola in Guinea kills at least 78

Ebola is a 'regional threat' say West African ministers

West African foreign ministers have said that the Ebola outbreak is a "threat to regional security."

A number of countries have stepped up border and flight checks. Senegal have said it was imposing sanitary checks at borders "until further notice."

Donka Hospital, Conakry, where Ebola victims are being treated. Credit: REUTERS/Saliou Samb

In Conakry people remained calm but some executives at international mining companies voiced concern according to the Telegraph.

"We have asked our employees to avoid physical contact, especially in hospitals," said one executive with a mining firm.

People also avoided shaking hands, an important part of West African greetings.

Five deaths are currently being investigated in Liberia and one in Sierra Leone. At least 78 people in Guinea have known to have died so far.

The Morocco health ministry told MAP News they have put up precautionary measures "especially at Casablanca airport," a key transportation hub for north and west Africa.

Read more: 'Unprecedented' outbreak of Ebola in Guinea kills at least 78

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Bat eating blamed as Ebola spreads in Guinea

The western African country of Guinea has forbidden the sale and consumption of bats, rats and monkeys as the country fights the spread of Ebola which has claimed the lives of over 70 people so far.

“We discovered the vector agent of the Ebola virus is the bat,” said Remy Lamah, the country’s health minister, in an interview from the town of N’zerekore to Bloomberg News.

“People must even avoid consumption of rats and monkeys. They are very dangerous animals.” Communities eat bats in rural areas around the Ebola-stricken towns of Macenta, Gueckedou and Kissidougou.

Read more: 'Unprecedented' outbreak of Ebola in Guinea kills at least 78

Guinea facing 'unprecedented' Ebola outbreak

Guinea faces an Ebola epidemic on an "unprecedented scale" as it battles to contain confirmed cases scattered across several locations that are far apart, medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres says.

“We are facing an epidemic of a magnitude never before seen in terms of the distribution of cases in the country” said Mariano Lugli, coordinator of MSF's project in Conakry.

Two MSF workers clean a box in a village in Gueckedou. Credit: Handout/MSF/Kjell Gunnar Beraas

Guinea's health ministry has reported 122 suspected cases, with at least 78 deaths linked to the virus. It has now spread to neighbouring Liberia, as well as Guinea's capital, Conakry, which has a population of two million people.

The below image shows the town of Gueckedou, with reports of an outbreak. The town has an estimated population of 405,000.

The area of Gueckedou in a Southern region of Guinea. Credit: Handout/OpenStreetMap

Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a rare but serious disease that spreads rapidly through direct contact with infected people or animals. It can be transmitted by blood and body fluids and is often fatal.

Read more: Guinea Ebola outbreak 'first of its kind' for 20 years

Guinea Ebola outbreak 'first of its kind' for 20 years

People walk in front of the entrance of the Donka Hospital, where victims of the ebola disease are being treated. Credit: Reuters

At least 78 people have died after contracting the Ebola virus in the west African nation of Guinea, according to health authorities.

Victims develop internal and external bleeding from the virus, which has no cure.

Neighbouring Senegal has closed its land border with Guinea to keep the virus from spreading further. Liberia has confirmed two cases, including one death.

The Ebola outbreak is the first of its kind in west Africa in two decades.

African immigrant found inside tiny suitcase

Shocking footage has emerged after a man tried to smuggle a 19-year-old African immigrant into Spanish territory.

The video released by Guardia Civil shows the young man, who is thought to come from Mali, appearing dazed as officers uncover him in the suitcase.

A 39-year-old Moroccan man was arrested after dropping the bag and fleeing when asked for a baggage check, officials said.

The incident occurred on the North African border of Morocco and the Spanish enclave Melilla.

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