Ebola Contact Tracing Underway

Ebola Contact Tracing Underway

Public Health England is contacting plane passengers following the recent UK case of Ebola.

From: Public Health England, Department of Health and NHS England

First published: 30 December 2014

Part of: Ebola virus: UK government response and Public health

Public Health England is contacting plane passengers following the recent UK case of Ebola.

Public Health England (PHE) is undertaking contact tracing following the confirmed case of Ebola in a healthcare worker returning from Sierra Leone, and as of 6pm on 30 December 2014, has spoken to 63 passengers.

The person had left Sierra Leone on 28 December and had been a passenger on flight AT596 from Freetown to Casablanca, flight AT0800 from Casablanca to London, and transferred at Heathrow to flight BA1478 for onward travel to Glasgow.

Although the risk of infection to other passengers on the flights is considered extremely low, PHE is contacting 132 passengers, and the crew on the flight from Casablanca to Heathrow. Health Protection Scotland is carrying out a similar exercise for the 71 passengers on the Heathrow to Glasgow flight, speaking with 56 to date.

People contacted by Public Health England will be made aware that a person on their flight was confirmed with Ebola after they returned to the UK, although the person would have been in the very early stages of disease and extremely unlikely to be infectious.

Even though the risk is considered extremely low, as a precaution we inform people sitting directly of the vicinity of the passenger (2 rows adjacent, ahead and behind, comprising 21 passengers) to take their temperature twice daily until the 18 January 2015. If their temperature is 37.5°C or higher, or they begin to feel unwell in any way, they are advised to call a dedicated Public Health England contact immediately for advice.

Other passengers and crew on board will be advised to call NHS111 with their flight details, if they begin to feel unwell.

The period between exposure and when symptoms might develop (the incubation period) for Ebola is currently considered to be up to 21 days. Any illness that passengers might experience beyond that point would not be considered to be related.

This process is currently under-way, and follows other recent successful Public Health England contact tracing efforts for UK incidents involving Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome and Congo Crimean Haemorrhagic Fever.

The patient was on the returning worker scheme and was screened at Heathrow Airport on arrival, in line with standard procedures. At this point they did not have any symptoms of a fever, stated they had been well in the previous 24 hours and were cleared to travel home as per the protocol. This process was overseen by a medical consultant.

PHE is leading the screening process and is providing clinical staff on a rota in all of the ports identified for the enhanced screening. Since October 2014, we have screened over 1,700 people returning from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, said:

For Ebola to be transmitted from one person to another contact with blood or other body fluids is needed. The individual involved did not experience any symptoms consistent with the transmission of Ebola, and as such, the risk that this infection will have been passed from the affected individual to others is extremely unlikely.

However as a precaution, PHE is contacting all passengers on the flight to the UK and providing a further level of follow-up for all those in the vicinity of the passenger to ensure anyone who feels unwell undergoes a medical assessment rapidly. Our colleagues at Health Protection Scotland are carrying out a similar exercise for the passengers on the Heathrow to Glasgow flight.”