Ministers are coming under growing pressure to test travellers for ebola at airports and transport hubs in the UK to prevent the spread of the disease.
As news filtered through of the first death from ebola of a patient diagnosed in the US, Washington announced plans to introduce screening for the deadly virus at some of its airports.
Meanwhile, Britain announced that 750 military personnel would be sent to west Africa to help tackle the epidemic and health secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted that it was “entirely possible” that the virus could reach Britain.
Such developments have led to increasing calls for screening at UK transport hubs.
MP Keith Vaz, chair of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee, called for tests at airports, train stations and ports as well as greater support for immigration officers to make sure they have the training to deal with the outbreak.
“Our immediate response should be to tighten regulation and introduce measures such as screenings”
He said: “Our immediate response should be to tighten regulation and introduce measures such as screenings at airports, train stations and ferry ports to ensure that this deadly disease cannot take more lives.
“Immigration officers are not trained health professionals. Greater support must be offered to ensure that they are equipped to deal with this outbreak to prevent it reaching the UK,” he added.
The latest deployment of British military personnel to the ebola-affected region followed a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee chaired by the prime minister.
Medical ship RFA Argus will travel to Sierra Leone along with three helicopters, aircrew and engineers to provide transport and support to medical teams and aid workers.
The announcement came as the first ebola patient diagnosed in the US, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in a Texas hospital and the World Health Organization warned that sporadic cases in Europe are “unavoidable”.
“It is now entirely possible that someone with Ebola will come to the UK”
Shortly afterwards the health secretary warned that it was entirely possible that someone could enter Britain infected with ebola.
Mr Hunt said: “It is now entirely possible that someone with ebola will come to the UK by one route or another but we have very, very good plans in place.
“The NHS has a proven track record of dealing with and helping people with ebola,” he said. “Our ambulance services are equipped with the protective suits.
“But the most important thing we can do to protect the UK’s population is to play our part in making sure that the disease is contained in west Africa,” he added.
Authorities in Spain are dealing with the first case of the disease transmitted outside west Africa, in a hospital nurse who treated a priest flown to Madrid for treatment.