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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

Home HIV self-testing kits to be made available

People who are concerned that they might have HIV will soon be able to find out whether or not they are infected in the comfort of their own homes, officials are to announce.

At present it is illegal in the UK to do a HIV test at home and read the result yourself - people can take a sample themselves, send it off for testing in a laboratory and receive the result at a later date.

But officials are planning to change the outdated laws so people can perform a simple saliva test at home which will quickly give the user a "negative" or a "positive indication" result.

Health experts hope that making the tests more readily available will help reduce infection rates.

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Facts about the Cryptosporidium infection

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has released new findings linking an outbreak of Cryptosporidium infection last year with supermarket salad bags. Here are some facts about the parasite:

  • Found in soil, food, water or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal faeces
  • Most common symptom is watery diarrhoea, which can range from mild to severe
  • More likely to affect children aged between one and five years, and people with weak immune systems
  • The last outbreak affected some 300 people in England and Wales in May 2012

Source: HPA

London

HPA: 'We've been working with council to identify cause of illness'

Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time. We have been working with Environmental Health Officers at Havering Council to identify the cause of illness and any links to food eaten at the venue.

The venue has been cooperating fully with our investigations.

Clostridium perfringens bacteria are the third most common cause of food poisoning in the UK and this mostly occurs in relation to red meat or poultry.

Indications suggest that this outbreak is an isolated event.

People become unwell on average after about 12 hours of eating food contaminated with Clostridium perfringens, with diarrhoea and abdominal pain being the main symptoms.

The illness generally lasts no more than a few days although vulnerable groups such as very young children, elderly people, and those with underlying health problems can be more seriously affected.

It is rare for a person to die as a direct result of food poisoning.

People who become unwell with symptoms of food poisoning are advised to drink plenty of fluids and take rest at home.

If symptoms are particularly severe or do not settle within two days then they should seek medical advice.

– Dr Deborah Turbitt, director of the Health Protection Agency’s local Health Protection Unit

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London

Food poisoning probe in Havering after Christmas death

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has been notified of an outbreak of food poisoning linked to an establishment in Havering. One person has died after being admitted to hospital.

Around 30 people have reported symptoms of gastrointestinal illness after eating at the venue on Christmas Day.

Laboratory testing has confirmed the presence of Clostridium perfringens bacteria in a number of samples submitted by those experiencing symptoms, including the patient who died.

'More than one million' Norovirus cases

There have been more cases of winter vomiting bug norovirus during 2012.
There have been more cases of winter vomiting bug norovirus during 2012. Credit: ITV News

The number of cases of winter vomiting bug norovirus could rise to more than one million, according to new figures released by the Health Protection Agency.

Latest statistics show that there have been 3,538 laboratory confirmed cases of the virus during a 23-week period up until December 16th this year.

The amount of norovirus cases represents a small percentage of the actual numbers of norovirus activity as it is estimated that for each confirmed case, there are a further 288 unreported cases.

The latest figures eclipse last year's statistics at the same point.

Effects of whooping cough differ across ages

A woman coughs
Older children and adults tend to suffer a prolonged cough. Credit: PA Archive

While whooping cough can cause nasty symptoms in adults, it does not usually cause any long-lasting complications and can be treated with antibiotics.

In the very young, whooping cough can be a serious illness and can lead to death in some cases.

Babies and children can often make a distressing "whoop" sound while gasping for air after a coughing fit. Older children and adults tend to suffer a prolonged cough.

Nearly 400 whooping cough cases in children under three months

Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation at the Department of Health, said:

Whooping cough is highly contagious and infants are particularly vulnerable. Thirteen infants have died as a result of whooping cough this year and there have been nearly 400 cases of the disease in children under three months old. It's vital that babies are protected from the day they are born - that's why we are encouraging all pregnant women to be vaccinated.

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