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Pauline Cafferkey: Scottish nurse being treated for Ebola now in critical condition

By Lizzie Dearden

The British nurse being treated for Ebola is now in a critical condition after her health "gradually deteriorated" in hospital.

Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish NHS nurse caught the deadly virus while volunteering in a government-funded clinic in Sierra Leone, despite the use of protective equipment and strict infection controls.

She became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the UK on Monday after she returned to Glasgow, sparking an operation to trace other passengers on her flights.

The 39-year-old is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London. It houses the UK's specialist treatment centre for the disease, which has killed almost 8,000 people worldwide

A brief statement on the hospital's website today said: “The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is sorry to announce that the condition of Pauline Cafferkey has gradually deteriorated over the past two days and is now critical.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson had issued happier news that Mrs Cafferkey was "sitting up in bed, talking and reading".

She had chosen to receive plasma treatment, which uses the blood of Ebola survivors, as well as an experimental anti-viral drug that was not officially named.

Dr Michael Jacobs, infectious diseases consultant at the Royal Free, said on Wednesday: “We are giving her the very best care possible. However, the next few days will be crucial. The disease has a variable course and we will know much more in a week’s time.”

Mrs Cafferkey had worked as a nurse for 16 years before starting volunteering with Save the Children to help with the Ebola crisis.

She flew out to Freetown in November with four other Scottish volunteers and a contingent of 30 NHS staff from around the UK as part of a government-funded project.

During her time in Sierra Leone's “red zone”, she wrote a diary about her experiences for the Scotsman newspaper, chronicling her journey from the Blantyre Health Centre in South Lanarkshire to Ebola's front line.

She said she felt well-protected in the “alien-type suit” of protective clothing health workers wear in 30C heat, joking that they would “certainly be beneficial on a cold winter's night in Scotland”.

In her third week, Mrs Cafferkey described the harrowing experience of watching a woman die from Ebola as her young son watched through the window, made an orphan by the virus that claimed both parents and his sister.

Despite the sorrow, she said seeing survivors be discharged back into the outside world with celebratory singing and dancing made the work worthwhile.

"It helps us remember the good work we are doing and the reason we are all here," she wrote.

Save the Children said almost 200 people had been treated for Ebola at the Kerry Town Treatment Centre, which opened in November and has 80 beds.

Source: Independent

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