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Relief after airport Ebola scare

Tests for nightmare virus on woman who died at Gatwick prove negative

By David Usborne

A woman who collapsed and died in Gatwick Airport after a flight from west Africa has tested negative for the Ebola virus, the Department of Health has said.

Staff and passsengers were in fear for their lives after the 72-year-old woman from Sierra Leone was reported to have been seen sweating and vomiting before she died.

She died later in hospital, and the jet was quarantined. Terrified passengers faced an agonising wait until tests confirmed she had not contracted the deadly virus yesterday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta hospital treating a US aid worker stricken with the Ebola virus has appealed to the public to show compassion after receiving “nasty emails” asking why he was allowed back into the country.

Emory University Hospital is also expecting the arrival of a second victim, Nancy Writebol. She will be treated in a specially equipped isolation unit alongside one occupied by Dr Kent Brantly who arrived over the weekend.

Dr Brantly’s condition was last night said to be improving.

Officials there are striving to reassure nervous members of the public that the aid workers' presence in the city did not imply a risk of an Ebola outbreak on US soil.

“I hope our understandable fear of the unfamiliar does not trump our compassion when ill Americans return to the US for care,” said Dr Tom Frieden, director of the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), also based in Atlanta. He noted the agency had received some “nasty emails” and about 100 calls from people questioning why the sick aid workers should be let into the US.

Dr Brantly and Ms Writebol became infected while working at a missionary clinic in Liberia. The country is among three in West Africa that is battling the Ebola outbreak which has already claimed the lives of over 700 people, according to the World Health Organisation.

Dr Brantly was the first to be flown to the US aboard a private air ambulance because he insisted that the only single antidote available at the clinic be given to Ms Writebol. It was believed last night that the same aircraft, fitted with equipment necessary to isolate the patient from the crew and medical attendants, was on its way back to Liberia to take Ms Writebol to Atlanta.

He is now in a sealed unit from which no virus can escape.

“Nothing comes out of this unit until it is non-infectious,” said Dr Bruce Ribner, who will be treating the patients.

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