40 are given experimental Ebola vaccine

Pauline Cafferkey is in the Royal Free Hospital, London. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Pauline Cafferkey is in the Royal Free Hospital, London. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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EXPERIMENTAL vaccinations have been offered to 40 people who have been in contact with a Scots nurse who is being treated for a late complication from the deadly Ebola virus, health officials have confirmed.

Pauline Cafferkey, 39, was flown by military helicopter to the Royal Free London Hospital on Friday where she is being treated in an isolation unit as tests indicate the virus was still in her body. Ms Cafferkey, from Cambuslang, South Lanarkshire, was diagnosed with Ebola in December after returning from working as a volunteer in Sierra Leone.

She spent almost a month in an isolation unit at the Royal Free before being discharged in late January.

A statement from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde today confirmed all close contacts of Ms Cafferkey since she became symptomatic have now been identified and 40 of the 58 people offered vaccinations as a precaution.

Health officials confirmed that 25 of them accepted the vaccine while 15 have either declined or were unable to receive it because of existing medical conditions.

People who have taken the vaccine will face travel restrictions and twice-daily temperature checks.

The 58 people were described as a mixture of healthcare workers and friends, family and community contacts.

The nurse was admitted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, in Glasgow, last week after feeling feverish.

She visited Mossneuk Primary School, in East Kilbride, the day before her readmission to hospital to give an assembly thanking the children for their fundraising efforts.

NHS GGC said: “All 58 close contacts are being closely monitored.

“This includes a period of 21 days since their last exposure where they will have their temperature taken twice daily, restrictions placed on travel and, in the case of healthcare workers, they have been asked not to have direct patient contact during this period.

“The 25 who were vaccinated will undergo additional monitoring because the vaccine is still being evaluated.

“It is important to stress once again that there is no risk to the general public.

“Ebola is not spread through ordinary social contact, such as shaking hands or sitting next to someone. Nor is it spread through airborne particles.”

The unlicensed rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine offered is being trialled in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and has been tested in more than 7,000 people during a recent Ebola outbreak in Guinea.

A statement from the Royal Free last Friday confirmed Ms Cafferkey had been transferred to the hospital “due to an unusual late complication of her previous infection by the Ebola virus”.

It said: “The Ebola virus can only be transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person while they are symptomatic, so the risk to the general public remains low and the NHS has well-established and practised infection control procedures in place.”

Ms Cafferkey remains in a serious condition at the Royal Free Hospital in London, a spokesperson confirmed.

All Ebola blood test samples in Scotland are tested at the Scottish National Viral Haemorrhagic Fever Test Centre, in Edinburgh.