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Hospital testing woman for Ebola

A hospital is treating a woman who is suspected of having Ebola.

A spokesman for Northampton General Hospital said: "A patient with a suspected case of Ebola was admitted to Northampton General Hospital this evening," adding it was a woman.

The hospital was unable to provide further details about the identity of the woman or how she may have contracted the illness but a Public Health England (PHE) spokesman confirmed the patient had a history of travel to west Africa, although it thought Ebola was "unlikely".

A hospital statement said: "Tests have now shown that the patient is malaria negative. Ebola is considered unlikely but testing is being done as a precaution, as is usual practice in these circumstances.

"We are confident that all appropriate actions are being taken to protect the public's health and ensure there is no risk to patients or staff."

Asked if she was in an isolation unit, the spokesman added: "She will be in isolation if she is suspected of having the illness."

A PHE statement said: "PHE can confirm it is due to receive a sample for Ebola testing, involving an individual at Northampton General Hospital with a history of travel to west Africa.

"Ebola is considered unlikely but testing is being done as a precaution, as is our usual practice in these circumstances. Based on the evidence-based risk assessment, we are confident that all appropriate actions are being taken to protect the public's health.

"It is important to remember that the infection can only be transmitted through contact with the bodily fluids - such as blood, vomit or faeces - of an infected person.

"We have advised all front-line medical practitioners and NHS call handlers to be alert to signs and symptoms of Ebola in those returning from affected areas and following such advice we would expect to see an increase in testing."

Northampton Council leader David Mackintosh tweeted: "Have been made aware of suspected Ebola case at Northampton General Hospital who have a plan to protect the public to deal with any incident.

"Northampton Borough Council stands ready to do anything asked of it to help and support the Hospital if required."

Northampton General Hospital's website states it has "plans in place to identify and manage possible cases of Ebola in the unlikely event of a local outbreak".

These are in line with guidance issued by the Department of Health and Public Health England.

Under a headline saying "Ebola: very low risk but NGH is prepared", the website adds: "We have robust systems and processes which will ensure we are able to identify and isolate a patient who presents with symptoms of Ebola or any other infectious disease. We have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment, and access to expert testing and advice.

"We would like to reassure local people that the risk of infection in the UK remains very low. Nevertheless we are being extremely vigilant and taking all appropriate measures to ensure we are fully prepared. Our plans are being kept under continuous review and amended as the situation changes."

The development comes after doctors treating British nurse Pauline Cafferkey for Ebola at the London's Royal Free Hospital said this week she was no longer critically ill.

The Scottish public health nurse remains in an isolation unit where she is receiving specialist care and which said she was showing signs of improvement.

David Cameron welcomed the news d uring Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons. He said he was sure everybody was thinking of her, adding: "It is very good news that she is out of critical care, but there is still a long way to go."

He was responding to Conservative Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon), who said: "I'm sure the whole House will want to honour the bravery of NHS Ebola volunteers and welcome the news that nurse Pauline Cafferkey is off the critical list."

She also raised the work going on in Oxford to develop a vaccine, which the Tory leader called "vitally important".

He added: "The minister for government policy (Oliver Letwin) is leading the work on this and making sure we do everything to try and cut through some of the bureaucracy that otherwise would be in place so that we can develop a vaccine fast."

Ms Cafferkey was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from Sierra Leone to Glasgow and was initially admitted to the city's Gartnavel Hospital on December 29, then transferred to London the following day.

The nurse, from Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, had volunteered with Save the Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone, before returning to the UK.

Save the Children has launched an investigation into how she was infected, but admits it may never establish the exact circumstances.

She flew back to the UK via Casablanca in Morocco. Her temperature was tested seven times before she flew from Heathrow to Glasgow and she was cleared to travel.

She later became feverish and followed advice given to her at Heathrow to contact local services and was admitted to an isolation facility at the Brownlee unit in Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow, at 8am on December 29.

After a blood sample tested positive for Ebola, she was transferred in a military plane to the Royal Free Hospital by 8am on December 30.

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