Ebola crisis back in focus as UK case confirmed

The international Ebola epidemic made headlines again on Tuesday after the U.K. announced its first in-country case of the deadly virus and two other patients underwent tests.

A volunteer nurse who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone was airlifted from Scotland to a specialist clinic in London on December 30, 2014.
AFP | Getty Images

Ebola continues to rage in West Africa, and the British government said on Monday that a healthcare worker had been diagnosed with the disease one day after flying from Sierra Leone to Glasgow. The nurse has since been transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in London.

A second health worker in Scotland was undergoing tests for Ebola on Tuesday, and third was being tested in Cornwall, England.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted at midday London time that he was about to chair a cabinet meeting on the viral disease.

"Safety measures are working well—and the risk to the public is extremely low," he said.

Cameron tweets on Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the epidemic—which is the worst-ever of the virus that first appeared nearly forty years ago—has killed 7,842 people since March 2014.

Symptoms of Ebola include fever, vomiting blood or bloody diarrhea, joint pain, rashes and bleeding noses or gums. It is spread through contact with infected blood and body fluids.

The neighboring West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have suffered from the vast majority of cases and deaths, but the virus has also reached Western countries.

Gloves and boots used by medical staff drying in the sun at a center for Ebola victims in Guinea.
Seyllou | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. case was announced one day after a man in Tokyo, Japan, tested negative.

One healthcare worker was infected in Spain while treating a patient, but has now recovered. The U.S. has suffered two imported cases, including one death, as well as two locally acquired cases in healthcare workers.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that West Africans living in the United States could face "negative responses from people in their community" due to fears and misconceptions about the disease.

"People may say bad things about you, or try to stop you or your family from everyday activities like work, school, shopping, or spending time with friends… You are not more at risk for Ebola because of your specific race or country of origin," the CDC states in a poster on its website.

In some areas of West Africa, the disease's spread has been acerbated by weak health systems, endemic poverty, and low levels of education.

To help combat the latter problem, health bodies have published pictorial guides explaining the best way to care for a family member with Ebola—or arrange for their burial.

One poster headlined "Let us help one another fight against Ebola!" is published on the CDC's website. It advises anyone taking a possible Ebola-victim to hospital to keep a distance of at least three feet (one meter) from them.