WITH more than 1,900 in West Africa dead of ebola since the start of this year, hospitals in Worcestershire are braced for a possible outbreak of the disease here.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs Worcestershire Acute Hospital, Kidderminster Hospital and Redditch’s Alexandra Hospital – has received an official warning from Public Health England to be alert for any possible cases in the county.

However, a report presented at a meeting of the board of the trust on Wednesday, September 3 said the risk of someone in Worcestershire being infected by the disease was very low.

But the report written by associate chief nurse for infection control David Shakespeare and consultant microbiologist Dr Jane Stockley – which was originally part of the meeting’s private agenda but was moved to the public session as it was not believed to be sensitive – said it was important to be alert.

“There is a very small risk that a patient who has an appropriate travel or contact history could present to an admitting area at the trust,” it read.

“This risk is compounded by the incubation period for ebola, which is two to 21 days.”

More than 3,500 confirmed or probable cases of ebola have been identified in West Africa since the start of the outbreak, which is believed to have begun in Guinea in December last year but was not detected until March. It has since spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria.

The virus can only be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids or from touching victim's bodies and can cause a grisly death with bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears.

Every university in the country has also been issued with official advice on how to deal with an outbreak of the fatal disease as students travel to the UK from West Africa for the new academic year.

But a spokesman from the University of Worcester said, although they were expecting about 15 students from the region, none of these are from Libreria, Sierra Leone or Guinea, where the outbreak has been most damaging.

Earlier this week the World Health Organisation said more than 20,000 people could be infected before the disease is brought under control and at least £360 million – or $600 million – is needed to fight the virus.

But medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres branded the international response to the outbreak as “lethally inadequate”.

Earlier this week the first British person to contract the disease – volunteer nurse William Pooley who was infected while working in Sierra Leone – was discharged from hospital after spending almost two weeks in a special isolation unit.