Fears of contagion spiked in London on August 3 after a Gambia Bird flight from Sierra Leone was quarantined after a passenger collapsed as she descended the plane at Gatwick Airport. A woman who was reportedly in her 70s became ill while descending the gangway at the busy London hub, “sweating and vomiting” before her collapse. She later died in East Surrey Hospital in Redhill near London on August 2.

Airport and airliner staff are reported to be terrified over the possibility of an outbreak of the deadly virus in the United Kingdom, and that the virus might spread globally from the Gatwick international hub.

Ebola has killed more than 256 people in Sierra Leone, and a total of 826 have died in West Africa (including Guinea, Liberia and Senegal) since the outbreak began in February 2014. In the UK case, tests were carried out to see if the victims had succumbed to the disease. The Gambia Bird flight, which had 128 souls onboard, was quarantined while officials tracked down anyone who may have been in contact with the dead woman. Airport workers anxiously awaited the results of tests.

When the woman collapsed, she had been seen to sweat profusely and vomit. When she collapsed, paramedics, emergency crews, airport operations, and immigration officials arrived at the jet bridge. Subsequently, the plane was quarantined. All passengers and crew were required to provide details about their identity and travel.

The Gambia Bird flight stopped in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, on its way from Sierra Leone. It landed at Gatwick at 8:15 AM on August after a five-hour flight. UK Public Health officials are trying to instill calm, claiming that the septuagenarian victim had shown no symptoms while in flight. “Public Health England is aware a passenger arriving on a flight from The Gambia that landed at Gatwick airport on Saturday fell ill shortly after disembarking,” said a public health official quoted by London daily The Mirror.  The official averred that tests are being done to determine the cause of death, but said “The patient’s symptoms suggest that Ebola is very unlikely but as a precaution this is one of the tests being undertaken.”

Contending that England has a modern health care and disease control system, the official said “As such, if the UK does see a case of imported Ebola, this will not result in an outbreak in this country.” By 11 PM on August 3, the UK Department of Health said that tests for the deadly Ebola virus on the victim had proved negative.

There is no cure for the Ebola virus, whose symptoms in the later stages include external and internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. It is at that point that the disease is highly contagious. The death rate is calculated to be 90%, although doctors said in this epidemic the rate is 60%.

Last week, Ebola was described as out of control by World Health Organization chief Margaret Chan and could be “catastrophic.” Chan said that 60 physicians, nurses and health care workers have lost their lives trying to save others. “This outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to ­deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socio-economic disruption as well as a high risk of spread to other countries.” 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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