Fears that Ebola may reach Britain intensified last night after a passenger from Sierra Leone died at Gatwick airport.
The 72-year-old woman became ill and collapsed after she left a Gambia Bird jet arriving from the West African country. A total of 826 people have died in Africa as a result of an outbreak of the deadly virus which began in February - 256 of these lived in Sierra Leone.
The woman was reportedly vomiting heavily and sweating profusely, but tests last night showed that the woman did not have the virus
‘We’ve all seen how many people have died from Ebola, especially in Sierra Leone, and it’s terrifying. The woman was sweating buckets and vomiting.
‘Paramedics arrived to try to help her. The next thing everybody was there… emergency crews, airfield operations, even immigration.
‘They closed down the jet bridge and put the aircraft into quarantine.
‘They took everyone’s details, even the guy who fuels the aircraft.’The plane carrying the woman came from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone – a country with the highest number of victims from the disease. It stopped at Banjul in The Gambia before landing in Gatwick at 8.15am on Saturday after a five-hour flight.
Last night the Department of Health said that tests on the woman proved negative for Ebola. A spokesman for Public Health England said the woman’s symptoms had suggested Ebola was very unlikely but the tests were carried out as a precaution.
A spokesman for South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust added:
‘We were called to Gatwick Airport on Saturday at 8.27am to attend to a patient who had been taken unwell on an inbound flight from Gambia.'There is no cure for Ebola, which is spread by close contact. It kills between 25 and 90 per cent of its victims.
Early symptoms include headache, fever, fatigue, muscle pain and a sore throat. In the more advanced stages of the virus victims can experience skin rashes; bleeding from the eyes, nose and mouth; as well as diarrhoea, vomiting, and internal bleeding.
Guidelines advise quarantining anyone who has caught the virus and disinfecting their homes.
Contact with infected animals should be prevented and healthcare workers should wear protective clothing when caring for victims.
The death rate from the outbreak has been constantly rising since the first case was detected in Guinea in February. More than 339 people have died in Guinea, 233 in Sierra Leone, 156 in Liberia and one in Nigeria.
The World Health Organisation has said the infection rate is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, prompting fears it could spread outside the continent.
A lack of border control has allowed infected people who didn’t seek medical attention because of fear, suspicion or stigma to travel freely among in West Africa.
The fatality rate has been about 60 percent, and the scenes of patients bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears has led many relatives to keep their sick family members at home instead.
Sierra Leone is now sending teams door-to-door in search of Ebola patients and others who have been exposed to the disease