NHS 111 call handlers have been tasked with identifying people infected with Ebola in a move to tackle the “international public health emergency”.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said it is now “likely” that there will be a handful of Ebola cases in the UK over the next three months.
Additional safety measures have been announced in order to contain the possible infections.
People calling NHS 111 with possible symptoms would be asked about their travel history and referred to local emergency services if necessary.
And guidance on what to do when someone presents with relevant symptoms will be sent to GP and hospital receptionists.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “It is vital that the right decisions are made on Ebola following any first contact with the NHS. We have put in place a process for all call handlers on NHS 111 to ask people reporting respiratory symptoms about their recent travel history so appropriate help can be given to higher risk patients as quickly as possible.
“The Chief Medical Officer has also issued a series of alerts over recent months to doctors, nurses and pharmacists setting out what to do when someone presents with relevant symptoms. We will also send out guidance to hospital and GP receptionists.”
Last month the United Nations declared the outbreak an “international public health emergency”.
So far there have been more than 4,000 confirmed deaths from the Ebola virus, and close to 8,400 confirmed cases since the current outbreak started in March 2014.
In the world’s largest outbreak, the virus has been detected in seven countries. Widespread transmission remains mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Early symptoms of Ebola include:
– Joint and muscle pain
– Sore throat.
– Muscle weakness.
As the infection progresses, it is followed by diarrhoea, vomiting, rash, stomach pain and impaired kinder and liver function. The patient then bleeds internally and may also bleed through the ears, eyes, nose or mouth.