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Ebola virus could reach the UK by end of the month, scientists claim

Health workers wearing protective gear go to remove the body of a person who is believed to have died after contracting the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia (AP)
Health workers wearing protective gear go to remove the body of a person who is believed to have died after contracting the Ebola virus in the city of Monrovia (AP)
A member of a burial team prepares to collect Ebola victims from a treatment centre for cremation on October 2, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Eight Liberian Red Cross burial teams under contract with the country's Ministry of Health collect the bodies of Ebola victims each day in the capital. More than 3,200 people have died in West Africa due to the epidemic. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A Medecins Sans Frontieres nurse gets prepared with Personal Protection Equipment before entering a high risk Ebola zone in Monrovia, Liberia (AP)
A nine-year-old girl is taken to an ambulance after showing signs of the Ebola infection in Liberia. (AP)
A local Liberian artist paints a mural forming part of the country's fight against the deadly Ebola virus (AP)

The Ebola virus could reach the UK and France by the end of the month.

Following an analysis of disease spread patterns and airline traffic data, experts have predicted there is a 75 per cent chance the virus could be imported to France by October 24, while there is a 50 per cent chance it could have also hit Britain.

The deadly epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people since it began in West Africa in March and has now started to spread faster, infecting almost 7,200 people so far.

The estimates have been based on air traffic remaining at full capacity. An 80 per cent reduction in travel however would see France's risk remain at 25 per cent, while Britain's risk would still be at 15 per cent.

Nigeria, Senegal and the US, where the first case was diagnosed on Tuesday in a man who flew in from Liberia, have all seen people carrying the Ebola haemorrhagic fever virus, apparently unwittingly, arrive on their shores.

France and Britain have each treated one national who was brought home with the disease before being cured.

The scientists' study suggests that more may bring it to Europe not knowing they are infected.

France is believed to be among the countries most likely to be hit next because the worst affected countries - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - include French speakers and have busy travel routes back.

Heathrow airport meanwhile is one of the world's biggest travel hubs.

Belgium has a 40 per cent chance of seeing the disease imported, while Spain and Switzerland have lower risks of 14 per cent each, according to the study first published in the journal PLoS Current Outbreaks. The study is also being updated at MoBS Lab.

This photo provided by the CDC shows an ebola Virus. (AP Photo/CDC)
This photo provided by the CDC shows an ebola Virus. (AP Photo/CDC)
A Liberian burial team, all wearing protective clothing, retrieves the body of a 60-year-old Ebola victim in his home on August 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. The virus has killed more than 1,000 people in four African countries, and Liberia now has had more deaths than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
A Liberian burial team wearing protective clothing loads the body of a 60-year-old Ebola victim after retrieving him from his home on August 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. The epidemic has killed more than 1,000 people in four African countries, and Liberia now has had more deaths than any other country. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Workers prepare the new Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Ebola treatment centre on August 17, 2014 near Monrovia, Liberia. The facility initially has 120 beds, making it the largest such center for Ebola treatment and isolation in history, and MSF plans to expand it to a 350-bed capacity.(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
A man who was showing symptoms of possible Ebola listens as UNICEF health workers speak about Ebola prevention on August 18, 2014 in New Kru Town, Liberia. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Nroh Nah listens as local UNICEF health workers speak about Ebola prevention at the entrance to her home on August 18, 2014 in New Kru Town, Liberia. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has not placed any restrictions on travel and has encouraged airlines to keep flying to the worst-hit countries. British Airways and Emirates airlines have suspended some flights.

But Alex Vespignani, a professor at the Laboratory for the Modeling of Biological and Socio-Technical Systems at Northeastern University in Boston who led the research, said the risks change every day the epidemic continues.

He told Reuters: "This is not a deterministic list, it's about probabilities - but those probabilities are growing for everyone.

"It's just a matter of who gets lucky and who gets unlucky."

The latest calculations used data from October 1.

"Air traffic is the driver," Mr Vespignani said. "But there are also differences in connections with the affected countries (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), as well as different numbers of cases in these three countries - so depending on that, the probability numbers change."

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