Ebola Uganda
© Abubaker Lubowa/REUTERS
An Ebola awareness messsage on the side of a van in Uganda, which is battling an outbreak of the disease
Health officials are investigating a potential Ebola case in Colchester, after a patient with suspected symptoms returned to Britain from Africa, where a strain of the deadly virus is circulating in Uganda.

On Wednesday, part of Colchester Hospital in Essex was closed to new patients amid concerns that a patient with a travel history to Africa was developing early symptoms of Ebola, a deadly hemorrhagic fever.

The Telegraph understands that officials at the UK Health Security Agency are testing the patient for a range of diseases as part of routine infection control protocol that kicks in when suspected cases emerge in travellers.

In early October, the UK Government told doctors to be on high alert for potential symptoms and to stock up on personal protective equipment in case Ebola was exported to Britain, though they said the risk to the public was "very low".

If confirmed, this would be the first Ebola case detected in Britain since 2014, when two people were infected in West Africa before travelling to the UK - including Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse working to curb the outbreak, which killed 11,000 people.

Both of those cases recovered. This would be the first case of the new Sudan strain of the virus, for which there is no approved vaccine.

In a statement, Colchester Hospital said one clinical area had been temporarily closed "because of an infection control issue", but that the centre was up and running as of 7am.

"Thank you to all our patients and staff for their support yesterday afternoon when we had to temporarily close one clinical area at Colchester Hospital, the urgent treatment centre, to new patients. This was because of an infection control issue. The centre is now fully open," the hospital said.

Dr Meera Chand, UKHSA Director of Clinical and Emerging Infection added: "Individuals who have travelled recently and report illness are routinely assessed by NHS clinicians for a variety of infectious diseases."

Alongside Ebola, it is thought the patient is being tested for several other hemorrhagic fevers - including Lassa fever and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic fever, which were detected in Britain in February and March respectively.

The Telegraph understands that it will take a few days for test results to come through.

Undetected spread fears

Ebola - which spreads through bodily fluids - was first detected in Uganda in late September. Since then 163 confirmed and suspected cases have been identified across nine regions, including 77 fatalities - including six healthcare workers.

At the weekend, Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni said the infection rate is slowing - although three cases with no known link to known patients have emerged in a region 150 miles from the epicentre, suggesting the virus may be spreading undetected.

The outbreak has been caused by a relatively rare type of Ebolavirus, known as the Sudan strain, which has not been recorded since 2012.

While there are now vaccines to combat the more common Zaire strain, which have been instrumental in halting several recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, these do not work against the virus currently spreading in Uganda.

Health authorities are now racing to roll out trials of three vaccine candidates - including one developed by the University of Oxford, using the same technology as their Covid-19 jab. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization announced that the experimental shots will arrive in Uganda next week.

People who are infected with Ebola do not become contagious until symptoms appear, which is after an incubation period of between two and 21 days.