29 Dec 2014

Confirmed case of Ebola in Britain as a second is tested

A woman who was working for Save the Children in Sierra Leone has arrived in London for specialist treatment after being diagnosed with Ebola. A second suspected case is being tested in Glasgow.

Scottish Ebola patient moved to London

The female patient, whose case has been confirmed, was initially put in isolation in Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital after returning to the UK via Heathrow airport. She was reported to be in a stable condition. She was then moved to London’s Royal Free Hospital for further treatment.

And it emerged on Tuesday that doctors in Glasgow are testing a second suspected case, although it is said to be low risk.

The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the second patient, who has also recently returned from west Africa, has had no known contact with the virus.

Officials say all possible contacts with the first patient are being monitored. The Scottish government says the risk to others was considered extremely low because the first case was detected early..

I am confident we will be able to respond effectively First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

The first patient is an NHS worker who returned to Scotland via Casablanca before getting a connecting flight from London Heathrow to Glasgow airport on a British Airways flight at 11.30pm on Sunday night.

After feeling unwell, she was admitted to hospital and placed into isolation at 7.50am on Monday

All 71 passengers and crew on the flight are being contacted as a precautionary measure, the Scottish government said. Only one other person is thought to have been in contact with the patient, other than those on the flight.

Second UK case

This is the second confirmed case of Ebola in the UK after the British nurse William Pooley was flown back to the UK in August for treatment. He later made a full recovery and is now working in west Africa again.

Specialist Ebola treatment at London's Royal Free Hospital

The high level isolation unit at London's Royal Free Hospital is the UK's main weapon in the fight to contain and treat Ebola infections in Britain.

The unit is run by a dedicated team of doctors and laboratory staff and access is restricted to specially trained medical staff.

A specially designed tent is set up around the patient's bed so the infection can be contained while they are treated.

Mr Pooley, who has since returned to Sierra Leone, spoke of the "world-class care" he received upon leaving the hospital.

He said: "I was very lucky in several ways, firstly in the standard of care that I received, which is a world apart from what people are receiving in west Africa, despite various organisations' best efforts.

"I had amazing care, which was one difference."

It is thought to be the first time that a case of Ebola has been diagnosed on UK soil.

It is understood the first patient was transferred from Glasgow Airport on a “military-style plane” in a quarantine tent, surrounded by a group of health workers in full protection suits.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our first thoughts at this time must be with the patient diagnosed with Ebola and their friends and family. I wish them a speedy recovery.

“Scotland has been preparing for this possibility from the beginning of the outbreak in west Africa and I am confident that we are well prepared.

“We have the robust procedures in place to identify cases rapidly. Our health service also has the expertise and facilities to ensure that confirmed Ebola cases such as this are contained and isolated effectively minimising any potential spread of the disease.”

‘Measures in place’

Downing Street said Prime Minister David Cameron phoned Ms Sturgeon regarding the case and made clear that the UK government stood ready to assist “in any way possible”, a No 10 spokesman said.

After chairing a meeting of the Whitehall Cobra contingencies committee in London, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there would be a review of the “procedures and protocols” adopted by NHS workers and other government staff working in Sierra Leone.

He said the government was doing “absolutely everything it needs to” to keep the public safe and that the measures it had put in place were working well.

While public health experts have emphasised that the risks are negligible, a telephone helpline has been set up for anyone who was on the Heathrow to Glasgow flight last night.

The number is: 08000 858531.

Almost 8,000 people have died in west Africa after contracting the Ebola virus, according to the World Health Organisation.