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Patient tests negative for Ebola

A patient in Belfast has tested negative for the Ebola virus, the Public Health Agency (PHA) has confirmed.

The person, who recently returned from west Africa, has already tested positive for malaria.

The patient was being kept in isolation at the Royal Victoria Hospital in the city.

A PHA statement said: " The patient has also been tested for Ebola, as a precautionary measure, and this test is negative.

"The patient is being treated for malaria and will continue to be monitored.

"The PHA has advised that there is no increased risk to the wider community."

Ebola virus disease (EVD) can be a severe illness. The time from infection to onset of symptoms is two to 21 days.

Dr Lorraine Doherty, an assistant director of public health in charge of health protection at the agency, 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.

"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."

The organisation said it is important to note that the likelihood of contracting EVD is extremely low unless the person had come into contact with blood or body fluids of a person with symptoms.

"Therefore we would like to stress that the risk to the public is low.

"There is no change to the current situation in Northern Ireland in that the risk to the public here is very low."

The patient, who had been in Sierra Leone, was admitted to the Royal Victoria on Friday and tested positive for malaria.

Stormont health minister Jim Wells said as a precaution samples were sent to the Porton Down laboratory in the UK and another centre in Dublin.

Recently in Northern Ireland, at Derry's Altnagelvin hospital and in the Irish Republic, in Co Donegal, similar alerts also proved negative.

Mr Wells said any patient assessed in Northern Ireland as having Ebola would be flown to the Royal Free Hospital in London and arrangements had been established for that to be done rapidly.

Ebola sufferer William Pooley was successfully treated there in an isolation unit - the only one in the UK - and received the experimental drug ZMapp. It's not known if this contributed to his recovery.

Mr Wells added: "Even with the worst situation that could arise, the numbers would be expected to be in single figures so therefore whilst it is a matter of great concern to the public, we don't envisage that this will place an inordinate burden upon either our health service or those in the rest of the UK."

The outbreak has centred on the west African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

Almost 5,000 people have died from the virus and more than 13,000 have been infected, though experts believe the true number may be far higher.

Some £17 million has been donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to help people affected by the Ebola crisis in West Africa, the organisation said.

DEC partner agencies have provided humanitarian aid to eight million people in the disease-stricken region, giving food to more than 80,000 people, water and sanitation for 415,000 people and helping with the burial of almost 4,000 infected or potentially-infected bodies.