Last updated:

Ebola outbreak

The most recent outbreak of Ebola Viral Diseases (EVD) has proven far more difficult to control than previous epidemics, with more than 3,400 deaths and almost 8,000 reported cases across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

A number of doctors based in the UK, originally from areas affected by the Ebola virus, would like to return in order to provide medical help to those affected. However, doctors find it very difficult to travel overseas for longer than a month due to the problems arising over their visas, which they need to have in order to work in the UK.

The BMA wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May seeking reassurances that UK-based doctors can return to their home countries to help provide much needed aid, without fear of their work permit being revoked.

Since then, the Home Secretary has agreed to make concessions to immigration rules so that doctors currently working in the UK on a Tier 2 visa who are originally from West Africa, and who want to go back home to treat victims of Ebola, can do so without it causing problems with their UK visa.

Read our guidance for doctors on Tier 2 visas on helping in West Africa

Read the BMA's letter to the Home Secretary 

Read the BMJ's medico-legal advice for doctors thinking about volunteering

Read the BMA news story

 

The BMA's recommendations

In October 2014 the BMA urged the World Medical Association (WMA) to:

  • call on the international community to immediately provide the necessary supplies of personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks and gowns, to protect healthcare workers and ancillary staff and reduce the risk of cross infection
  • call on all those managing the epidemic to commit to adequate training in infection control measures, including personal protective equipment for all staff and caregivers who might come into contact with infective materials
  • call on national and local governments to increase public communication about basic infection control practices
  • honour those working in these exceptional circumstances, and strongly recommend that national governments and international agencies work with healthcare workers on the ground to offer stakeholders training and support to reduce the risks they face in treating patients and in seeking to control the epidemic
  • call upon the World Health Organization (WHO) to facilitate research into the timeliness and effectiveness of international interventions, so that planning and interventions in future health emergencies can be better informed
  • strongly urge all countries, especially those not yet affected, to educate healthcare workers about the current case definition, in addition to strengthening infection control methodologies, disease surveillance and contact tracing in order to prevent transmission within countries
  • call for NMAs to contact their national governments to act as described above

Addressing the World Medical Association's (WMA) annual General Assembly in Durban on 8 October, BMA senior director Dr Vivienne Nathanson called for the necessary supplies and training those working on the ground need to manage the epidemic.

Read the press release

Read the BMA news story

 

Ebola guidance for GPs

Public Health England (PHE) has published Ebola guidance for primary care along with a complex risk assessment algorithm.

 

Latest on the Ebola outbreak

The World Health Organization and Public Health England are providing up-to-date coverage and guidance on the 2013-2014 Ebola outbreak.

WHO website

PHE website

 

In the eye of Ebola

Médecins Sans Frontières volunteer Dr Benjamin Black was working in maternal healthcare in Sierra Leone when Ebola fever flared up across West Africa.

Dr Black and his team had to balance the risk to themselves and others when admitting patients to the maternity unit, against the risk of leaving someone to die.

Read about Dr Black's time in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak

 

Ebola information for frontline staff

A message from Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, National Medical Director; Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer; and Dr Bob Winter, National Clinical Director for Emergency Preparedness.

Read the message to frontline staff

 

Background

A number of viral diseases have caused occasional health emergencies in parts of Africa, with local or wider spread epidemics. These include Lassa, Marburg and Ebola Viral Diseases (EVD).

The 2013-2014 outbreak of EVD in West Africa has proven far more difficult to control than previous epidemics and is now present in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea with more than 3,400 deaths and almost 8,000 reported cases.

Following infection, patients remain asymptomatic for a period of 2-21 days and during this time tests for the virus will be negative, and patients are not infectious, posing no public health risk.

Once the patient becomes symptomatic, EVD is spread through contact with body fluids including blood. Symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and bleeding, and all these body fluids are potentially sources of infection.