UK calls emergency meeting on Ebola

International concern has risen about the virus which has killed 672 people since February.

FILE: International concern has risen about Ebola which has killed 672 people in West Africa since February. Picture: AFP.

LONDON - Britain on Wednesday held a top-level government meeting to discuss the spread of the highly-contagious Ebola virus in West Africa, saying the outbreak was a threat it needed to respond to.

International concern has risen about the virus, which has killed 672 people in West Africa since February, after the first recorded case of the disease in Africa's most populous country, Nigeria.

Although no cases of Ebola have been found in Britain, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said after the emergency meeting that London was considering extra precautions but was confident it could contain the disease if necessary.

"In terms of the UK the issue is about the possibility of somebody who has contracted the disease in Africa getting sick here," he said after the meeting, which health experts, scientists and other ministers attended.

"It is not about the disease spreading in the UK because frankly we have different standards of infection control procedure that would make that most unlikely."

He said that ministers had discussed what additional measures Britain could take to contain the outbreak in West Africa, and what steps needed to be taken in case a British national in the area contracted the disease.

He did not specify what precautions were being considered.

Earlier this month, public health officials issued guidance to hospitals and doctors asking them to look out for possible cases in travellers returning from the affected countries.