HC Deb 06 August 1976 vol 916 cc1170-1W
Mrs. Wise

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he will make Lassa fever a notifiable disease;

(2) whether he is satisfied that hospital workers have been properly safeguarded, as far as possible, in relation to the recent case of Lassa fever in a London hospital;

(3) whether he is satisfied that the public interest has been adequately safeguarded in relation to the recent case of an outbreak of Lassa fever;

(4) whether he will order an inquiry into circumstances surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of a man suffering from Lassa fever, at St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington, and at Coppetts Wood Isolation Unit, Muswell Hill.

Mr. Ennals

I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) on 3rd August and to the statement circulated in theOfficial Report.

My Department has been in touch with St. Mary's Hospital and also with the Health and Safety Executive with regard to the safeguard of hospital workers. I am informed that in the present incident when the patient entered St. Mary's Hospital there was no reason to suspect that he was infectious; but when it appeared that Lassa fever might be a possible diagnosis safeguards were instituted along lines similar to those for dealing with outbreaks of smallpox.—[Vol. 916, cc. 1435–40.]

Mr. Anthony Grant

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what discussions he proposes to have with the Government of Nigeria with a view to preventing further outbreaks of Lassa fever in the United Kingdom, which have their origin in Nigeria.

Mr. Ennals

A medical adviser from my Department visited Nigeria in 1975 for discussions on the problem of this disease. I have asked the Chief Medical Officer to reconvene a group of experts to consider, in the light of the current incident, whether changes are needed in the advice given last year in relation to Lassa fever. If, following their report, I feel that further discussions with the Government of Nigeria could result in greater protection to public health here I will contact that Government.