5 Jan 2015

Did British nurse contract Ebola in treatment centre?

A charity involved in treating people with Ebola in west Africa says it is investigating how a British nurse in a critical condition contracted the virus in Sierra Leone.

The Royal Free Hospital, in north London, said Pauline Cafferkey’s condition deteriorated over the past few days while she was being treated with an experimental antiviral drug.

The Scottish public health nurse had volunteered with Save the Children at the Ebola treatment centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone, before returning to the UK and the charity today said it was urgently reviewing its protocols.

Rob MacGillivray, from the charity, told the BBC he hoped to discover whether Mrs Cafferkey had contracted the virus while at the treatment centre or in the community.

He said: “We have a review on at the moment – we are constantly reviewing our protocols and procedures to ensure staff working in Kerry Town centre take all measures possible to prevent themselves becoming infected with Ebola.

‘No stone unturned’

“And because of this very serious event we have put in an extraordinary review to ensure that we do everything can leave no stone unturned to, as far as possible, identify the source of this infection.

“Everybody is exposed to a certain amount of risk working in Sierra Leone at the moment but we will certainly be focusing on how the personal protection equipment was used, how it was put on, and more importantly how it was taken off. The kinds of contact people have had perhaps in Kerry Town centre and perhaps outside so it it will be a very full and thorough review.”

Mr MacGillivray added he was “confident” in the protocols the charity had in place and the results of the review would be published once completed.

Mrs Cafferkey, who works at Blantyre Health Centre in South Lanarkshire, was part of a 30-strong team of medical volunteers deployed to Sierra Leone by the UK government in November and had been there for three weeks before returning home on rotation for a break, the charity boss added.