The risk of Ebola being imported into the UK before the end of October is as high as 50 per cent, scientists have predicted.
Heathrow’s status as one of the world’ biggest travel hubs puts the UK at greater risk of a traveller passing into the country unknowingly carrying the virus.
With an 80 per cent reduction in travel reflecting the cancellation of routes to the regions affected by the outbreak by some airlines, the risk would fall to 15 per cent.
The estimates are based on the computer modeling of data from the outbreak by scientists, including flight patterns and air traffic and the interaction between the people of different countries. The spread of the disease can then be forecast based on at least one case being carried to a country.
Due to its flight connections with affected countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, France also stands a high risk of the virus entering the country, 75 per cent, reducing to 25 per cent with similar flight reductions.
However, scientists studying the outbreak say the reduced travel achieves only a 3-4 week delay in the growth of the probability of importation.
The latest data comes from the Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems (Mobs) at Northeastern University in the US, and are revisions of projections first put forward in September in the journal Plos Current Outbreaks.
Alex Vespignani, a professor at the lab told Reuters:
This is not a deterministic list, it's about probabilities - but those probabilities are growing for everyone. It's just a matter of who gets lucky and who gets unlucky. Air traffic is the driver. But there are also differences in connections with the affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as different numbers of cases in these three countries - so depending on that, the probability numbers change.
The treatment of the disease and its containment outside of the worst affected countries is down to better healthcare and quarantine precautions.
He said the best way to reduce the risk was to help contain the outbreak in Africa where there was greater risk of it spreading to other countries on the continent: “... every time a country has a potential outbreak, if it is not able to contain it, that increases the number of people who will travel.”
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