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First UK ebola patient arrives in Hampstead

11:12 26 August 2014

Consultant Dr Stephen Mepham and Olly Carpeter in the Royal Free

Consultant Dr Stephen Mepham and Olly Carpeter in the Royal Free's infectious disease unit. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The first Briton to contract the deadly Ebola virus during the recent outbreak in west Africa has arrived for treatment in Hampstead after being flown back from Sierra Leone.

William Pooley, 29, is receiving urgent treatment by doctors at the Infectious Diseases Unit in the Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, after being flown back on a specialist RAF jet on Sunday.

Mr Pooley, a volunteer nurse, tested positive for Ebola after treating patients suffering from the virus at Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) in the south-east of Sierra Leone.

There is no cure for Ebola and outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.

The department of health said he was not “seriously unwell” and health chiefs insisted that the risk to the British public from Ebola is “very low”.

Professor John Watson, the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, said: “We have robust, well-developed and well-tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases when they arise, supported by a wide range of experts.

“UK hospitals have a proven record of dealing with imported infectious diseases and this patient will be isolated and will receive the best care possible.”

Mr Pooley’s parents have already praised the “excellent care” their son is receiving at the Royal Free.

They said: “We would like to express our thanks to all involved in bringing our son back to the UK.

“We have been astounded by the speed and way which the various international and UK government agencies have worked together to get Will home.

“Will is receiving excellent care at the Royal Free Hospital and we could not ask for him to be in a better place.

“We would like to thank all our family and friends for their best wishes and ask everyone to remember those in other parts of the world suffering with Ebola who do not have access to the same healthcare facilities as Will.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has put the number of people infected with the deadly virus at 2,615.

Some 1,427 have died since the disease was identified in Guinea in March and spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

Earlier this month, the Ham&High reported that Hampstead had become a “front line of defence” against the potential spread of the disease, with the Royal Free having the country’s only two beds fully equipped to deal with infections.

Doctors at the Royal Free’s Infectious Diseases Unit said the risk to the UK remained small but at the time said that plans to transform other parts of the hospital into isolation wards had been made should more than two infected patients arrive for treatment.

Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection at Public Health England, said protective measures would be strictly maintained to avoid the virus being transmitted to staff transporting the patient and healthcare workers in the UK.

He added: “For Ebola to be transmitted from one person to another contact with blood or other body fluids is needed and as such, the risk to the general population remains very low.”

Rigorous quarantine measures are used to stop the spread of Ebola, as well as high standards of hygiene for anyone who might come into contact with sufferers.

Symptoms of the virus appear as a sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

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