The first British casualty of the latest Ebola virus outbreak has been flown back to London and is being treated in isolation.
William Pooley, 29, a volunteer nurse, had travelled to Sierra Leone to help the victims of the Ebola outbreak. Dr Robert Garry, an American scientist who worked with him at the Kenema Government Hospital in the south-east of Sierra Leone, identified him to the press. Mr Pooley was picked up at Sierra Leone’s Lungi airport on Sunday and flown back to the UK in a specially-equipped military aircraft, landing at the RAF base in Northolt.
He was transferred under police escort to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north-west London, which has Britain’s only high-security infectious disease unit. Mr Pooley, is being described by hospital staff as “not currently seriously unwell”. He is being treated in a specialist isolation tent made of rubber and plastic that separates him from medical staff who can observe him safely. The air inside the tent is cleaned by a ventilation system which is attached to the tent before being released into the atmosphere.
The current Ebola outbreak has killed nearly 1,500 people across West Africa since March. The first reported cases were in Guinea. Liberia and Sierra Leone, which both border Guinea, have also reported cases and a Libyan governmental worker travelled to Nigeria where it was confirmed he later died as a result of Ebola. Two American humanitarian workers volunteering in Libya also contracted the virus and were flown back to the States and successfully treated with an experimental drug in Atlanta earlier this month. Though the drug is yet to be tested in human trials, it was also used to treat three African doctors in Liberia. The American manufacturer, ZMapp has reported that supplies have now been exhausted.
The Department of Health has confirmed it is trying to source any remaining doses that may be available. At present the fatality rate is around 90%. The deputy chief medical officer, Professor John Watson has advised the public not to be alarmed as “the overall risk to the public in the UK remains very low”.