British military healthcare worker infected with Ebola arrives at Royal Free

Inside the Royal Free's
infectious disease unit where Ebola patients are treated. Picture: Nigel Su

Inside the Royal Free's infectious disease unit where Ebola patients are treated. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A British military healthcare worker testing positive for the Ebola virus has been admitted to the Royal Free Hospital today.

The female patient was flown back to the UK in a specially equipped military plane after contracting the deadly disease in Sierra Leone.

She will be treated in the Royal Free’s High Level Isolation Unit (HLIU), where nurses William Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey were successfully treated of Ebola.

Two of the patient’s colleagues have also been flown back to the UK and taken to the hospital in Hampstead for assessment.

Public Health England (PHE) said: “Rapid tracing was undertaken in Sierra Leone to identify anyone that had been in recent close contact with the diagnosed individual.

“This contact tracing identified four military healthcare workers requiring further assessment. On the same precautionary basis that has been adhered to previously, two healthcare workers are returning on the same military plane today and will be assessed at the Royal Free Hospital. They will then be monitored for any symptoms for the remainder of their incubation period, in line with standard procedures.

“The two other individuals are currently being assessed in Sierra Leone, to inform a clinical decision regarding bringing them to the UK. If a decision is made to transport them to the UK for further assessment, they will be taken to Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, in line with Ebola response plans. None of the four individuals has been diagnosed with Ebola.”

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Health chiefs were keen to emphasise that “there is no risk to the general public’s health and the overall risk to the UK continues to be very low”.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, said: “The UK has robust, well-developed and well-tested systems for managing Ebola virus disease. All appropriate infection control procedures have, and will continue to be, strictly followed to minimise any risk of transmission. UK hospitals have a proven record of dealing with imported infectious diseases.

Dr Jenny Harries, Ebola incident lead at PHE, said: “We can confirm that all the appropriate support is being offered to these individuals. We would like to emphasise that there is no risk to the general public’s health and the overall risk to the UK continues to be very low.

“Our thoughts are with all the healthcare workers, and their families, affected at this time.”

Mark Francois, Minister for the Armed Forces, said: “The wellbeing of our Service personnel remains our overriding priority. This includes the individual directly affected and their 4 colleagues, for whom precautionary measures are now being taken. I have seen for myself the courage and dedication of our personnel who are doing such a vital job in Sierra Leone. They are helping to protect not only those in West Africa from this unprecedented outbreak but also us at home by working to combat the spread of the virus. We are very proud of what our servicemen and women are doing and our thoughts are with their 5 colleagues and their families at this time.”

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, national medical director, NHS England said: “Since the beginning of the Ebola crisis, the NHS has put plans in place to treat a small number of cases in this country and is prepared for various scenarios. Patient, public and staff safety are paramount to this planning. In addition to the Royal Free Hospital, which has now treated 2 patients with Ebola, we have a network of dedicated infectious disease centres around the country, staffed by highly trained teams of doctors and nurses prepared and ready to accept potential Ebola cases, as well as individuals requiring future assessment.”