SCOTTISH nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, is no longer critically ill, the hospital treating her has announced.
The community health-care nurse remains in isolation at London’s Royal Free Hospital where she is receiving specialist care. Doctors yesterday said the 39-year-old, of Cambuslang, was “showing signs of improvement”.
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Her health deteriorated in the new year and on 3 January the hospital announced her condition was critical – leaving her fighting for life.
But news that Ms Cafferkey is no longer critically ill suggests she is likely to make a full recovery, according to Professor Hugh Pennington, one of Britain’s leading microbiologists, who said the update on her condition was “excellent news”. He added that is was impossible to say how long it would be before she is released from hospital.
Although there are no specific details on her condition, he said it was “reasonable to assume that she was very close to being in a state of shock”.
“This can mean problems with blood pressure, difficulty breathing and organ failure,” •Neighbours pray for ‘local hero’ Pauline Cafferkey
Aberdeen-based Prof Pennington said. “All these sorts of things can be dealt with in an intensive care unit with artificial supports to keep someone going. When you’re into that kind of situation, every minute of every day is critical.”
He added: “Although we don’t know the specifics of her case, it is reasonable the interpretation of what they are saying is that she is no longer in need of any of these artificial supports. It is excellent news and suggests she has turned a corner.”
Ms Cafferkey was initially admitted to the Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow on 29 December, then transferred to London the following day.
The nurse, who is originally from the village of Crossgates in Fife, had volunteered with Save the Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone, before returning to the UK. Save the Children has launched an investigation into how she was infected, but admits it may never establish the exact circumstances.
The hospital said: “We are pleased to announce that Pauline Cafferkey is showing signs of improvement and is no longer critically ill. She remains in isolation as she receives specialist care for the Ebola virus.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the ‘“quiet heroism” of the nurse and others who “make all of us safer by placing themselves at risk”.
Officials from Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland are now reviewing the UK’s screening procedures for Ebola.
Ms Cafferkey’s diagnosis has brought fresh scrutiny on the UK’s preparedness for cases of Ebola, which can only be contracted by coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the guidance has since been strengthened to ensure anyone from a high-risk group who feels unwell is reassessed and advice will be sought immediately from an infectious diseases specialist.
Ebola has killed more than 7,800 people, almost all in west Africa, since it broke out a year ago. • SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS