Ebola in UK: healthcare worker diagnosed with disease

A HEALTHCARE worker who flew from West Africa to Glasgow via Heathrow has been diagnosed with Ebola, the Scottish government has confirmed.

The female patient returned from Sierra Leone yesterday and is now receiving treatment at the specialist Brownlee Unit for Infectious Diseases at Glasgow's Gartnavel Hospital.

The Scottish Government said in a statement tonight that procedures to deal with infectious diseases have been put into effect.

The worker, confirmed to be a female by the charity who she worked for, returned to Scotland via Casablanca and London Heathrow, and arrived into Glasgow Airport on a British Airways flight on Sunday UK time.

She was admitted to hospital early on Monday morning after feeling unwell, and was placed into isolation.

A spokeswoman for Save the Children confirmed to The Independent that the nurse worked at its Ebola hospital in Kerry Town, near the capital Freetown, and added it believes she flew to Sierra Leone on 23 November.

Anyone deemed to be at risk will be contacted and closely monitored the Scottish Government statement added, but stressed: "the risk to others is considered extremely low" as the aid worker was diagnosed in the very early stages of the virus.

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.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR) to ensure all necessary steps are being taken, and has also spoken to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Ms 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."

She added that Scotland has been preparing for the eventuality that the disease could reach its shores "from the beginning of the outbreak in West Africa".

"I am confident that we are well prepared," she said. "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."

The facility that the nurse worked in at Kerry Town opened on 5 November, and includes an 80-bed treatment centre managed by Save the Children and a 12 bed centre staffed by British Army medics specifically for health care workers and international staff responding to the Ebola crisis.

The only other British person to be diagnosed with the often deadly virus was nurse William Pooley, 29, who contracted Ebola earlier this year while also volunteering in Sierra Leone.

He has since returned to the West African nation to continue his work and appeared as Channel 4's Alternative Christmas Message speaker to urge the British public to join the fight against the disease.

Since the outbreak began in West Africa last March, there have been a total of 19,500 cases in eight countries, mainly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - and 7,600 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.

The latest reports indicate that the spread of the disease is fluctuating in Guinea, declining in Liberia and plateauing in Sierra Leone. In those three countries, the death rate is 70 per cent.

The symptoms of the deadly virus include a fever, headaches, joint and muscle pain, a sore throat and intense muscle weakness, according to the NHS. Patients typically develop these symptoms after five to seven days, but can appear between two and 21 days of a person becoming infected.

After these symptoms develop people experience diarrhoea, vomiting, a rash, and stomach pain before liver and kidney functions deteriorate.

Ebola then causes internal bleeding and patients can bleed from their ears, eyes, nose or mouth.

However, while Ebola is contagious, it is only spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person, such as urine, vomit, diarrhoea and faeces, and saliva.

The World Health Organisation makes it clear that patients do not become contagious until they are displaying symptoms of Ebola, and they are not contagious during the incubation period.

The infection can be transmitted when these infected fluids come into direct contact with another person's broken skin, or with mucus membranes, which are found in the lining of the nose and mouth.

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