British national contracts Ebola in Sierra Leone

LONDON Sat Aug 23, 2014 3:41pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - A British national living in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola, the first Briton to fall victim to the deadly disease, the Department of Health said on Saturday.

Some 1,427 people have died among 2,615 cases documented in the world's worst outbreak of the highly contagious hemorrhagic fever that has spread across west Africa since first being identified in Guinea in March.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer John Watson confirmed a British national was among those suffering from Ebola and said medical experts were assessing the situation in Sierra Leone to ensure appropriate care was provided.

"The overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low," Watson said in a statement.

No further details about the British national were immediately available.

Ebola, which is passed on by direct contact with the bodily fluids of infected persons, strikes hardest at healthcare providers and carers who work closely with patients.

The vast majority of cases of Ebola have been in the remote border areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, but concern over Ebola's spread grew last month when a U.S. citizen died in Nigeria of the virus after arriving from the region.

On Aug. 5 British Airways announced it was suspending flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia until Aug. 31 due to the deteriorating public health situation.

The British foreign ministry has said Britons should think carefully before traveling to Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia.

"General medical facilities throughout Sierra Leone are currently under severe strain due to the Ebola outbreak and unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK," current advice states.

"Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are overwhelmed."

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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