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Praise for 'robust' measures in place as patient feared to have Ebola tests negative for virus

By Victoria O'Hara

A patient feared to be the first person in the UK to be carrying Ebola has tested negative for the deadly virus.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) confirmed last night a blood test revealed the patient - understood to be a man - showed he was not positive for Ebola.

It said the case demonstrated the "robust" measures in place across the province.

Fears emerged the virus that has killed over 7,000 people in west Africa had arrived in Northern Ireland when the man was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital on Friday.

He became ill following time spent in Sierra Leone.

The patient, however, did test positive for malaria.

In a statement the PHA said the patient will continue to be monitored but said there was no increased risk to the wider community.

It was also confirmed that to date fewer than five people have been tested for suspected Ebola in Northern Ireland. Dr Lorraine Doherty of the PHA said: "Tests have come back negative for Ebola in this patient.

"But the effective and seamless way in which the case was managed reiterates how important it has been for the health service to prepare for all eventualities."

Dr Doherty added: "This incident has further tested the measures that are in place to deal with a suspected case of Ebola and has shown them to be robust, and it will contribute our continued work in this area."

Speaking in the Assembly, Health Minister Jim Wells said he has attended two Cobra (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) meetings with other UK Health Ministers to discuss the course of action to tackle the potential outbreak of Ebola, which has spread in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

He said an arrangement had been made with the Royal Free Hospital in London, where any patient who is assessed as having Ebola would be flown.

"Even with the worst situation to arise the numbers are expected to be in single figures," he said.

Mr Wells said it was "highly unlikely" that anyone from Northern Ireland would contract Ebola unless they had been in one of the three countries in west Africa, and added that every health trust was "fully prepared" for a suspected case or confirmed case.

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