Ebola: Systems in Place for the Testing for Suspected Cases in Northern Ireland

Mrs Jo-Anne Dobson raised a Question for Urgent Oral Answer:
To ask the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for his assessment of the systems in place for testing for suspected cases of Ebola in Northern Ireland.
Mr Wells (The Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety) stated:
In line with arrangements for the rest of the United Kingdom, viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) testing of samples taken from patients in Northern Ireland is carried out in Porton Down laboratories, following discussions with the imported fever service. The Regional Virus Laboratory (RVL) has transport arrangements in place to ensure that clinicians in the Royal Victoria Hospital receive VHF test results in the shortest possible time.
Where it has been agreed that a sample will be processed immediately on receipt, results will normally be available within seven to eight hours of the arrival of the sample in the laboratory. In addition, in anticipation of transport delays - for example, because of bad weather - the RVL has arrangements in place to have samples tested in Dublin. That would be in tandem with sending samples to Porton Down, which, as the Member will know, is in Wiltshire. VHF testing will commence in Edinburgh on 1 December this year. The RVL is exploring the possible benefits for Northern Ireland in terms of contingency arrangements and reducing travel times.
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