Tuesday during a House of Lords debate Labour's Lord Robert Winston, a medical doctor who has presented scientific TV programs, said that Ebola could mutate into an airborne virus that is caught like a common cold.
He was reacting to Health Minister Earl Howe's remark at the House of Commons that the Ebola risk to British people "remains low".
At the moment the disease is passed through bodily contact or fluids such as blood and sweat, but the contagion risk would increase if the virus became airborne.
Lord Winston asserted: "I am slightly concerned about the possible risk of seeming a little complacent about saying that this is low-risk. We know that viruses mutate, for example, and we know that the Ebola virus can mutate."
He was echoing a similar concern expressed on US television by an expert on the Ebola virus, Purdue University virologist Dr. David Sanders, who has been studying this virus since 2003.
Sanders made his concern known after – in the first person-to-person transmission of Ebola on US soil - Texas Presbyterian Hospital nurse Nina Pham contracted the virus from Thomas Duncan, a Liberian patient who, if proper controls had been in place, should not even have been in America . The associate professor of biological sciences explained: “So we actually have the data that show that Ebola enters into lung tissue from the airway side. This was done with human lung tissue. And it enters by the exactly same side of the cell as influenza enters cells. So it clearly has that inherent capacity to get into the lungs from the airway”.
In another interview he had warned: “So this argues that Ebola is primed to be able to have respiratory transmission... We need to be taking this into consideration – what if. This is not a crazy what if. This is not a loud what if.”
The US Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), a global leader in addressing public health preparedness and emerging infectious disease response, about a month ago had already reported: ”We believe there is scientific and epidemiologic evidence that Ebola virus has the potential to be transmitted via infectious aerosol particles both near and at a distance from infected patients, which means that healthcare workers should be wearing respirators, not facemasks.”
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, harshly criticised in the States for their mishandling of the crisis, seem to start accepting this possibility.
The heightened risk of contracting Ebola due to respiratory transmission, if confirmed, will and should put more pressure on British authorities to stop potential carriers from entering the UK.
President Obama has been accused of putting American lives at risk for the sake of political correctness, by refusing to suspend travel visas from Ebola-affected countries.
Here in the UK, Public Health England and Border Force officials admitted that there is no fixed plan on how to deal with people who have visited affected countries but refuse to give details or to have their temperature taken.
Screening for Ebola has started at British airports but it emerged that the process is voluntary.
Keeping in mind that “After Ghana and Gambia, the UK has the third highest risk globally because of the large number of people and flights from the epidemic region to London”, the Liberty GB party believes that the first step to protect the British public is to bar from entry to the UK people from the Ebola-stricken countries.