Health officials are continuing to investigate reports that a Briton has died of Ebola in Macedonia, although it is considered “unlikely” the virus was the cause of death.
Macedonian health authorities said the 56-year-old man, who has not been named, died of “Ebola-like symptoms” in Skopje on Thursday. Hotel staff and guests, as well as anyone who came into contact with him, have been put in quarantine. Police were still present at the hotel on Friday morning.
His death prompted an investigation by Public Health England (PHE) and the Foreign Office as concerns grow over a potential outbreak of the infection in Europe.
However, PHE’s director of global health, Dr Brian McCloskey, said Ebola was unlikely to be the cause of the man’s death. He said: “Public Health England is aware there are unconfirmed reports of a British national dying in Macedonia who may have exhibited some symptoms compatible with Ebola. We understand Ebola to be unlikely as the cause of death but will continue to work with partners to investigate.”
The alert prompted the Foreign Office to update its advice for Britons considering travelling to Macedonia. However, it stopped short of warning people against visiting the country.
“Macedonian health authorities reported on 9 October that a person with Ebola-like symptoms had died in a Skopje hospital. They are conducting tests to establish the cause of death,” the Foreign Office said. “However, we understand Ebola to be unlikely as the cause. The Macedonian government has made clear that they are implementing World Health Organisation guidance and protocols on handling high-risk diseases.”
Macedonian health officials said the Briton had travelled from London on 2 October with a colleague. He had been staying at a hotel in central Skopje when he was taken ill with severe stomach ache and an increased temperature. The man remained in his hotel room for three days before an ambulance was called on Thursday afternoon. He was taken to hospital where he died 90 minutes later.
Officials said the man’s colleague said the deceased had not travelled to any country where Ebola was a risk, although the Macedonian health ministry suspected he had visited Nigeria. It gave no reason why this was suspected.