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UK passengers to be screened for signs of Ebola

Passengers arriving at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar train terminals are to be screened for signs of ebola.

Calls for testing have increased over fears Britain could soon have its first cases of the deadly virus, which has so far killed more than 3,800 people in West Africa.

The Government, which previously said checks would be impractical and ineffective, announced "enhanced screening" for travellers arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The tests will involve assessing their recent travel history, who they have been in contact with, and a possible medical assessment.

It comes as the US unveiled extra airport screening after the death of the first patient diagnosed with the deadly virus in America.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned it is "entirely possible" ebola could spread to Britain.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, called for screening at airports, ports and railway stations.

Handheld thermal scanners, which check body temperature, could be used to identify passengers who have a high fever, one of the symptoms of the disease.

They are already being used in some African countries, but there are questions over their reliability.

Professor David Heymann, chairman of Public Health England's Advisory Board, told Sky News: "I think that screening at borders sets up a security that is sometimes dangerous because then people think the solution is there.

"The problem in the UK must be understood by everyone in the UK.

"They need to know how the disease is spread and how they can prevent themselves from becoming infected."

Patients can also carry the virus for several weeks before showing any signs of infection.

Public Health England says any worthwhile screening programme would be impractical, and "robust, well-developed" plans are already in place.

Hospitals in London, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle are on stand by to provide "surge capacity" if the virus spreads to Britain.

There are currently no direct flights to the UK from the worst hit countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

The Prime Minister decided on Wednesday to boost the UK's military involvement in West Africa to 750 troops after chairing a meeting of the COBRA committee.

Medical ship RFA Argus will travel to Sierra Leone, along with three helicopters, aircrew and engineers to provide transport and support to doctors and aid workers.

Concern about the virus spreading across Europe has grown since Spain confirmed it was dealing with the first case caught outside Africa.

Australia is also examining a possible case after an ebola nurse returned to Queensland from Sierra Leone.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for the world to step up its efforts at a summit attended by the leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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