AN NHS worker who has been diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone has arrived in London for specialist treatment.
She arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in north London in an RAF truck accompanied by police cars.
She was admitted to hospital early yesterday morning after feeling feverish and was placed into isolation in the Brownlee Unit for Infectious Diseases at the city’s Gartnavel Hospital at 7.50am.
She 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, bound for London.
The patient flew into Glasgow airport on a British Airways plane around 11:30pm on Sunday from Freetown, Sierra Leone via Casablanca and London Heathrow airport, after helping care for Ebola victims in Sierra Leone. The woman contacted health authorities after feeling feverish yesterday morning and was taken by ambulance to Gartnavel Hospital, where she was placed in an isolation unit at the specialist Brownlee unit for infectious diseases on the hospital’s campus at 7:50am.
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Last night, it was reported that she had been screened for the virus in both Sierra Leone and at Heathrow, but was diagnosed in Glasgow. She is expected to be transferred to the high level isolation unit in the Royal Free Hospital in London as soon as possible.
A party of 30 NHS medical staff, including four Scottish volunteers, flew to Sierra Leone last month to help with the crisis. It was not clear last night if the woman was part of that group, but charity Save the Children confirmed she was an NHS health worker based at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone.
All passengers travelling on the flights on which the woman was a passenger are being traced, and anyone considered to be at risk will be contacted and closely monitored.
A telephone helpline has been set up for the other 71 passengers and crew who were on BA 1478 flight from Heathrow to Glasgow on Sunday.
The patient is thought to have had contact with only one other person in Scotland apart from the other flight passengers and hospital staff.
However, NHS Scotland said the potentially fatal illness had been diagnosed at an early stage and that the risk to others was “extremely low”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last night chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee and also spoke to Prime Minister David Cameron about the case.
She said the risk to the general public was “extremely low to the point of negligible”.
Ms Sturgeon added: “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. Scotland’s NHS has proved it is well able to cope with infectious diseases in the past, such as swine flu, and I am confident we will be able to respond effectively again.”
Dr Alisdair MacConnachie, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde consultant in infectious diseases, said: “I have confidence in our preparedness. As an infectious unit this is what we do. We’ve been preparing for it.”
Dr Syed Ahmed, Health Protection Scotland consultant, said the Ebola virus was not airborne and there was no risk to people unless they had been in contact with bodily fluids.
He added: “The reason we are trying to contact passengers is to make sure that they get the right information.”
A Downing Street spokesman said a meeting of Cobra (the government crisis committee) was being held and that Mr Cameron had told Ms Sturgeon that the UK government was ready to assist in any way possible.
The spokesman said: “They agreed that both governments would remain in close touch and ensure everything possible was done to support the patient and, although the risk to the general population remained low, all measures would be taken to protect public health.
“The Prime Minister’s thoughts are with the patient and her friends and family at this difficult time.”
A British Airways spokesman said: “We are working closely with the health authorities in England and Scotland and will offer assistance with any information they require.
“The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority and the risk to people on board that individual flight is extremely low.”
A spokesman for the Royal Free Hospital said: “The Royal Free London can confirm that it is expecting to receive a patient who has tested positive for Ebola. The patient will be treated in the high level isolation unit.”
The unit is run by a dedicated team of doctors and laboratory staff and access is restricted to specially trained medical staff.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs in October a number of Ebola cases were expected in the UK by Christmas as he introduced screening for the disease at some of the country’s airports.
British nurse William Pooley, 29, was diagnosed with the virus while working in Sierra Leone. He was given the all-clear in September following treatment at the Royal Free Hospital.
Paul Cosford, medical director for Public Health England, told Sky News the woman was “very brave”.
He said: “She is a very brave person who was fighting the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. She is en route to Royal Free where she will receive the best possible treatment for her disease.”
He added that the woman was admitted to hospital in the early hours of the morning, shortly after arriving home from Sierra Leone the previous evening, and she had not exhibited any severe symptoms of the disease, meaning there was a low risk of transmission to other passengers.
“The most important thing to remember about Ebola is it is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids - diarrhoea, blood or vomit.
“She only had a fever and when people have a fever they do not transmit the virus. We believe the risk to the public is low.”
The helpline for passengers on the Heathrow to Glasgow flight is 08000 858531.
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