The BMJ Today: How UK doctors should “be prepared” for Ebola

“The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complicated that the world has even seen.”

It is from this starting point that a group of experts begin their summation of how healthcare professionals in the UK can prepare themselves for what the World Health Organization has declared a “public health emergency of international concern.”

The Editorial, published today on, summarises how new and existing guidance can be practically applied by British medical professionals if they are faced with the virus.

It is co-authored by Tom Fletcher and Nicholas Beeching from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and Timothy Brooks from Public Health England’s Imported Pathogens Laboratory.

While the authors acknowledge that “the risk of a traveller acquiring a viral haemorrhagic fever and importing it to the UK is very small,” they stress that such scenarios “must be considered,” and that doctors must be ready to face any situation that may present itself.

They conclude: “The key message for healthcare professionals is to take a travel history from all patients with fever and perform a more specific risk assessment for patients returning from areas endemic for these diseases, according to the recently updated guidance.”

Elsewhere on today is some reaction to last week’s report, which found that GPs in the UK are failing to follow national guidance on antibiotic prescribing. The research—first published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy—showed that the highest prescribing general practices were twice as likely to give out a prescription for coughs and colds as the lowest prescribers.

In a rapid response to the News story, surgeon Peter J Mahaffey calls for doctors to grasp the nettle and be more proactive in eradicating overprescribing in this area. “If we can’t put our house in order over antibiotic abuse, then who could blame the government for telling us precisely when antibiotics can be used?,” he argues. “Surely this is a case for professional self-policing if ever there was one? And urgently.”

Gareth Iacobucci is news reporter for The BMJ.