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How to deal with suspected Ebola in primary care

14 October 2014

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Guidance on room decontamination and how to assess whether a patient has been infected with Ebola in general practice has been released by Public Health England (PHE). 

The guide, aimed GP surgeries and out of hours, has been released during the largest ever known outbreak of the disease. 

The Chief Medical Officer has confirmed that it is “more likely than not” that a few cases of Ebola will surface in the UK. 

Patients presenting to primary care with a fever of  >38°C or a fever in the past 24 hours who have visited any of the affected areas over the past 21 days could have Ebola. 

Also, Ebola should be suspected in patients who have a fever of >38°C OR have a history of fever in the past 24 hours and have cared for / come into contact with body fluids of / handled clinical specimens (blood, urine, faeces, tissues, laboratory cultures) from an individual or laboratory animal known or strongly suspected to have viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF). 

Ebola is one cause of VHF. Other viruses causing VHF are endemic in a small number of countries. 

If Ebola is suspected, the patient should be isolated in a side room, and urgent clinical advice should be sought from the local microbiology, virologist or infectious disease physician. 

Reception staff should be aware that any patients identifying themselves as feeling unwell who have visited VHF affected area should be isolated in a side room as soon as possible. They should not sit in the general waiting room. 

Travellers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone could arrive in the UK incubating the disease, and develop symptoms after their return.

Major UK airports including London Heathrow have began to screen passengers travelling from West Africa. 

And people calling NHS 111 with possible symptoms will be asked about their travel history and referred to local emergency services if necessary. 

More information on how to deal with patients over the phone and room decontamination is available online