Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Ebola in UK: Nurse diagnosed with virus after returning to Glasgow named as Pauline Cafferkey

A woman diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone is a nurse who volunteered to help in the fight against the deadly virus.

She has been named in reports as Pauline Cafferkey, a public health nurse at Blantyre Health Centre in South Lanarkshire, who was part of a 30-strong team of medical volunteers deployed to Africa by the UK Government last month.

Dr Martin Deahl said he sat next to Mrs Cafferkey on a flight from West Africa to Scotland on Sunday night. She was placed in isolation at a Glasgow hospital early yesterday morning after feeling feverish.

She arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in north London today to receive specialist treatment after being transferred on a military-style plane in a quarantine tent.

She wrote movingly about her four weeks in Sierra Leone in a diary for the Scotsman newspaper, describing how she had to tell a young boy his mother had died from the virus. His father and sister also died from Ebola, she discovered.

"The sad thing is that this is a regular occurrence and we see and hear of whole families being wiped out by this awful disease," she wrote.

Passengers who were on flights she took to the UK are now being contacted but health officials said the risk to the public is very low.

Dr Deahl told Sky News: "We had 10 days training at York given by the Army which was magnificent, and we all left feeling totally confident and safe."

It was confirmed today that two other people who have been in West Africa are being tested for Ebola - one in Aberdeen and one in Cornwall.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish patient was another healthcare worker who had recently returned from the region but was not thought to have had any direct contact with people infected with Ebola, with the case being described as "low probability".

The patient had been staying at a youth hostel in the Highlands and was being transferred to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary for tests.

The Cornish patient has been placed in isolation at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, Truro.

It is understood the patient, who attended the hospital this morning, recently returned from a country affected by an outbreak of the virus.

In a joint statement, the hospital and Public Health England said: "A patient has been admitted to Royal Cornwall Hospital and is currently undergoing a series of tests - one of which is for Ebola.

"We do not expect the results to be known for at least 24 hours and in the meantime the patient is being looked after in isolation, following nationally-agreed guidelines and protocols to protect the health of our staff and other patients."

Mrs Cafferkey flew back to the UK via Casablanca in Morocco and London Heathrow, arriving at Glasgow Airport at about 11.30pm on Sunday on a British Airways flight.

Ms Sturgeon said the risk to the general public is "extremely low to the point of negligible".

Mrs Cafferkey had been working with Save the Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone.

She is the second Briton to test positive and the first to do so on UK soil after nurse William Pooley, 29, contracted Ebola while volunteering in Sierra Leone in August before getting the all-clear following treatment at the Royal Free Hospital.

About 100 people have been tested for the virus in hospitals across England this year, most of whom had visited West Africa.

The confirmed case will raise questions about airport screening processes for passengers leaving the region and entering the UK.

Enhanced screening was rolled out at some UK airports in October, including Heathrow, with passengers having their temperature taken and completing a questionnaire asking about their current health, recent travel history and whether they might be at potential risk through contact with Ebola patients.

Last month, official figures showed a total of 931 people had been assessed in the weeks since the measures were introduced at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Manchester airports, plus London St Pancras Eurostar railway station.

The World Health Organisation said there have been 19,497 reported cases of Ebola, with 7,588 reported deaths. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been the worst-affected countries.

Paul Cosford, medical director for Public Health England, said the NHS worker with the virus, one of dozens of British volunteers helping fight the disease, is "a very brave person".

He said: "The most important thing to remember about Ebola is it is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids - diarrhoea, blood or vomit.

"She only had a fever and when people have a fever they do not transmit the virus. We believe the risk to the public is low.

"We are never complacent about those things so we want to be absolutely certain those people who will naturally be concerned they may have been on the flight with this individual have contact from us to give them that reassurance.

"We are making a specific effort to identify those who were sitting in the immediate vicinity on the flight so we can give them particular assurance and also on a very precautionary basis make sure they know what symptoms you would look out for if there was any concern at all and also where to contact if they have those symptoms.

"I would emphasise the risk is extremely low to anybody else outside of the hospital treating her."

The UK is one of a number of nations that has seen its doctors and nurses volunteer to help countries such as Sierra Leone combat the epidemic.

After chairing a meeting of the Whitehall Cobra contingencies committee in London yesterday following news of the Scottish case, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there would be a review of the "procedures and protocols" adopted by NHS workers and other government staff working in Sierra Leone.

He said the Government is doing "absolutely everything it needs to" to keep the public safe and that the measures it has put in place are working well.

During a news conference in Glasgow Ms Sturgeon said that the nurse was "doing as well as can be expected in the circumstances".

She said 63 of 70 people to be traced from the flight from Heathrow had either been spoken to directly or had a message left with them.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph