UK on Ebola alert as airlines stop flights to Liberia, Sierra Leone

The Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people in West Africa, poses a threat to the UK, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said in a Tuesday night interview.

Hammond said no Britons had been affected so far and there were no cases in the UK, but the government was viewing the outbreak very seriously, and he would chair an emergency 'Cobra' meeting on the issue.

Earlier this month Public Health England issued an alert to UK doctors to be aware of Ebola's symptoms.

Several West African airlines have now stopped flying to Liberia and Sierra Leone amid concerns about the spread of the disease to those countries from Guinea.

The move by airlines comes after an infected American man of Liberian descent was found to have flown from Liberia to Nigeria last week. He developed symptoms during the flight.

Doctors have been told to remain vigilant for possible cases of Ebola "imported" to the UK.

The medical director of Public Health England said it was "unlikely but not impossible" that travellers infected in West Africa could develop symptoms on their return. According to Dr Ben Neuman, a virologist at Reading University, the chance of the virus spreading in the UK was "very, very small".

He said border staff are already trained to deal with illnesses of this kind, and anyone showing signs of fever from an outbreak area would be stopped, quarantined and treated in containment facilities if the infection were confirmed.

He said the virus itself is "delicate and inefficient - you have to pick it up from bodily fluids". But he said it was sensible to be prepared, given the situation in West Africa.