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German hospitals ready for Ebola patients

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German hospitals ready for Ebola patients
Hamburg's UKE isolation ward is ready to take patients. Photo: DPA
16:50 CEST+02:00
Germany's high-tech isolation wards remained on alert on Friday, ready to receive Ebola patients should they be required to. German airports seemed less prepared for the potential dangers of the viral epidemic, however.

University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) said on Friday it remains prepared and ready to take Ebola patients from the outbreak in west Africa, despite not expecting any in the immediate future.

It received two requests this week to treat Ebola patients but those requests have now been cancelled.

"Of course our treatment centre is as always ready for use for patients with highly infectious diseases," spokeswoman Christine Trowitzsch told The Local.

"There are no longer any requests pending. Another preliminary request has also been withdrawn. Therefore we are not expecting a patient to be transferred," she added.

The UKE clinic has an isolation ward shut off behind three airlocks designed to stop contaminated material and microbes escaping.

The infectious Ebola virus has killed 672 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since February in the world's largest ever recorded outbreak of the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is still struggling to gain control of the virus for which there is no vaccine and no cure.

The current outbreak of Ebola, which started at the beginning of this year, has killed 55 percent of those it has infected.

The virus causes severe muscular pains, fever, headaches and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.

On Wednesday the WHO said in a statement it had passed no further treatment requests to Germany.

Earlier, UKE staff accepted Sierra Leone's request to take a patient, reportedly Sheik Umar Khan, an expert on Ebola and veteran fighter against the virus.

He died on Tuesday before he could reach Germany.

But the rapid spread of the virus is a danger for Europe, doctor Matthias Bochert from the Institute for Tropical Medicine and International Health at Berlin's Charite hospital told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper on Friday.

The capital's university hospital's 20-bed special isolation unit for patients with life-threatening and highly infectious diseases is the biggest in Germany. It also includes a sealed-off laboratory and operating theatre.   

It can be ready to receive patients at two hour's notice.

But neither of Berlin's two airports have a quarantine station.

"We don't have any direct flights to the areas of west Africa in which the Ebola virus has appeared," Lars Wagner, a spokesman for Berlin's airport authority FBB told the paper.

"If we were to get the message or had suspicions that a plane was landing with highly infectious passengers on board, the plane would be put aside immediately," said Wagner.

"We would decide in close coordination with the relevant Berlin clinics how we were to proceed."

Tegel airport used to have a quarantine room in a separate building until 2008 when it was destroyed in a fire.

Meanwhile, German health authorities on Thursday warned against travel to the three affected countries in west Afirca - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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