Northern Ireland

Jim Wells says stopping Ebola reaching Northern Ireland a priority

Volunteers arrive to pick up bodies of those who have died from Ebola in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone Image copyright AFP/getty images
Image caption Volunteers arrive to pick up bodies of those who have died from Ebola in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone

Health Minister Jim Wells has told the assembly that preventing the spread of the Ebola virus to Northern Ireland is "an absolute priority".

He said he had been informed by his Westminster counterpart that there were about 600 frontline UK medical staff treating Ebola victims in west Africa.

Mr Wells estimated 15-20 of them are likely to be from Northern Ireland.

"Given the history of Northern Ireland people in helping those in need in the third world it might be more," he said.

Mr Wells said that anyone entering Northern Ireland from an affected region in west Africa would likely have travelled through London or Dublin.

"That's where controls have to be effectively exercised to ensure that when they then move on to Northern Ireland they have already been screened for this dreadful condition," he said.

He added: "This is an absolute priority - the monitoring of this terrible disease which has killed over 4,000 people in west Africa.

"And whilst the ways of contamination are very specific, it's quite clear that already we have seen health care workers that have returned from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other affected areas are becoming infected - so therefore we have to do absolutely everything to ensure this condition does not spread."

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