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Ebola nurse fights for life as hospital says patients not in danger

By Emma Clark

The hospital treating a British nurse, who is in a critical condition after contracting Ebola, has said there is "no danger" to staff or patients.

The Royal Free Hospital in north London said Pauline Cafferkey's condition has deteriorated over the past few days as she is treated with an experimental antiviral drug.

It said on Saturday that the condition of Ms Cafferkey has "gradually deteriorated over the past two days and is now critical".

Her sudden change in condition came after her doctor described her as sitting up, eating, drinking and communicating with her family on New Year's Day.

Dr Michael Jacobs warned that she faced a "critical" few days while she is treated with convalescent plasma taken from the blood of an Ebola survivor, and an experimental antiviral drug which is "not proven to work".

Yesterday, the hospital released a new statement insisting it is "open for business as normal" while it offers round-the-clock care for the 39-year-old.

It said Ms Cafferkey was being treated in a high-level isolation unit and "there is no danger to patients or staff during this time".

"The Royal Free Hospital is open for business as usual, with in-patient, out-patient and emergency care continuing as normal."

Prime Minister David Cameron said Ebola was the "uppermost thing" on his mind following news of Mrs Cafferkey's condition.

"It's (Ebola) certainly the thing uppermost in my mind today with Pauline Cafferkey in hospital, and all of us are thinking of her and her family," he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show yesterday.

"And, also, how incredibly brave these people are, not only doctors and nurses from our NHS but also people from our armed forces who have been working in west Africa in very difficult conditions."

Mrs Cafferkey first raised concerns about her temperature when she returned to Heathrow Airport last Sunday but, despite undergoing seven temperature checks, she was given the all-clear to fly to Glasgow where she lives.

The following morning she was diagnosed with Ebola and placed in isolation at Gartnavel Hospital campus in Glasgow before being flown south.

The PM said he was listening to medical experts about whether a system of quarantine should be put in place for returning health workers.

Asked whether airport screening is failing, he said: "Her temperature was taken several times but then she was allowed to go on and travel to Scotland and, what I have said very clearly is, we should have a precautionary principle in place.

"If you are still in doubt, if there's uncertainty, there's proper arrangements for you to go to the Northwick Park Hospital in Middlesex to be observed and to have further tests there before going further.

"That is happening already, I am absolutely clear about that.

"If we need to change further, if the chief medical officer says we need a system of quarantine or anything like that, then we should put that in place. But it is important to listen to the medical experts and then make the decision."

All UK-based passengers and crew aboard the two flights taken by the nurse from Morocco and London have been contacted by medical authorities and given advice.

Scottish public health nurse Pauline Cafferkey was part of a 30-strong team of medical volunteers deployed to Sierra Leone by the UK Government in November. She had been working with Save the Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town. She is the second Briton to test positive and the first to do so on UK soil after nurse William Pooley (29), who survived.

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