Ebola: Sierra Leone boy's visit to Stockport school cancelled after 'misguided hysteria'

Kofi Mason-Sesay at the airport Image copyright Miriam Mason-Sesay
Image caption Kofi Mason-Sesay has joint nationality from the UK and Sierra Leone

A headteacher has blamed "misguided hysteria" about Ebola for the cancellation of a school visit by a nine-year-old boy from Sierra Leone.

Kofi Mason-Sesay had been due to attend classes this month at St Simon's Catholic Primary School in Stockport.

The boy, who has studied there during previous visits to England with his mother, does not have the disease and the headteacher said she had obtained public health reassurances.

But some parents expressed their fears.

In a letter to parents, St Simon's headteacher Elizabeth Inman wrote: "It is with great sadness that we decided to cancel the visit; the misguided hysteria emerging is extremely disappointing, distracting us from our core purpose of educating your children and [it] is not an environment that I would wish a visitor to experience."

'No health risk'

In a later statement she added: "It is unfortunate that some misplaced anxiety and misinformation about Ebola, amongst a small group of parents, has been circulated amongst the wider parent body.

"The school has sought, and received, assurances from the relevant health agencies that the visit would pose no risk to health.

"Despite these assurances, this has not alleviated the concerns of the group, leading to the cancellation."

Ebola facts
People can catch Ebola if they are in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal
Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding, sometimes from the eyes and mouth
The current outbreak started in March in west Africa, where the worst-affected countries include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
It is thought unlikely that the disease would spread if it did come to the UK because quarantine and communications are more developed than in parts of western Africa
There is no licensed Ebola vaccine but treatments are in development

People can catch Ebola when they come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person. The virus has no known cure but some affected people have recovered.

The current outbreak, which started in western Africa, has a mortality rate of about 70%.

The boy's mother Miriam Mason-Sesay, who works for the UK charity EducAid in Sierra Leone, told BBC Radio 5 live she had not been near any Ebola patients.

"If I am well enough to be up and about, then I am not sick enough to contaminate you even if I've got it coming, which I haven't," she said.

Image copyright Miriam Mason-Sesay
Image caption Kofi Mason-Sesay often attends the Stockport school when he visits England with his mum Miriam

The headteacher has proposed that parents donate to EducAid in recognition of Ms Mason-Sesay's work.

Public Health England said on Tuesday there were no plans to introduce Ebola screening for people visiting the UK.

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health, said: "If an Ebola case is repatriated to, or detected in, the UK they would receive appropriate treatment in an isolation unit, with all appropriate protocols promptly activated."

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