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Ebola could reach France 'by the end of October'

Ben McPartland · 6 Oct 2014, 15:30

Published: 06 Oct 2014 15:30 GMT+02:00

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Scientists in the UK have forecast that there is a 75 percent chance Ebola could reach France by October 24th.

The prediction, which comes days after it was announced a French nurse had been cured of the disease, was made by scientists at the University of Lancaster in northern England.

Their prediction is based on the hypothesis that air traffic to Ebola-hit countries remains normal.

An 80 percent drop in flights to the affected countries like Guinea would see the chances of Ebola coming to France reduce to 25 percent.

"If this thing continues to rage on in West Africa and indeed gets worse, as some people have predicted, then it's only a matter of time before one of these cases ends up on a plane to Europe," said Derek Gatherer from Lancaster University.

The same study led scientists to conclude there was a 50 percent chance of Ebola arriving in Britain and a 40 percent risk of a case being detected in Belgium.

Reuters news agency explained that France is among countries most likely to be hit next because the worst affected countries - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - include French speakers and have busy travel routes back, while Britain's Heathrow airport is one of the world's biggest travel hubs.

At the end of August, Air France announced that it was suspending flights to Ebola hit Sierra Leone, although the airline continues to serve Guinea.

In July France’s Health Ministter Marisol Touraine insisted the chances of Ebola coming to France were slim and that health authorities had everything in place in the event of an outbreak.

On Saturday the same minister revealed that a French nurse who contracted Ebola while volunteering for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Liberia has been cured of the deadly virus.

The nurse, who has not been identified, "is now cured and has left hospital," Touraine said in a statement.

However the heightened fears over the disease were evident on Monday when it emerged that some parents refused to send their children to a school near Paris, where a group of pupils had just returned from Guinea.

Le Parisien newspaper reported that the school had been told pupils did not pose a risk and that their temperatures were being taken every day.

Story continues below…

Ebola has killed more than 3,300 people in West Africa in the worst-ever outbreak of the disease.

Touraine authorised the use in France of three experimental drugs for thetreatment of Ebola including the antiviral medicine Avigan, or favipiravir, produced by Japanese firm Toyama Chemical, a subsidiary of FujiFilm Holdings.

The company says the nurse had been given Agivan, which was approved inJapan in March.

There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for Ebola. Of several prototypetreatments in the pipeline, one dubbed ZMapp has been fast-tracked for use, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical in California, in conjunction with the US Army.

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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