HEALTH authorities in Ireland suspect a man who died after returning from Africa had been infected with the Ebola virus.
He was named locally as Dessie Quinn, 43, a father of one originally from the Mountcharles area, outside Donegal town.
It is believed he had been living with his partner in Dublin but was visiting family in County Donegal when he was taken ill.
Local residents said he might have been getting treatment for suspected malaria after returning from Sierra Leone. Mr Quinn is not thought to have died in hospital.
One source said he had been working for a telecommunications company in the west African country and had returned to Ireland in the past few weeks.
The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) said it could not release details of the case, but it is understood Mr Quinn’s body was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital yesterday morning.
An HSE spokesman said: “Until a diagnosis is confirmed, and as a precautionary measure, the individual’s remains will stay in the mortuary pending the laboratory results, which are expected late tomorrow.”
A man who knew Mr Quinn said he was talking to him last week. “I met him at the festival in Mountcharles last Friday,” he said. “He was just home and, as far as I know, he was in Donegal since he came back from Sierra Leone. He could have been back two weeks or three weeks, I’m not sure.”
The man added: “Everyone knew him. He was great company to be along with – he was a very nice fella.”
Health chiefs have stressed that the risk of transmission of any disease is considered to be “extremely low”, but precautionary measures have been put in place.
Dr Darina O’Flanagan, head of the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said a person would have to be in very close personal contact with an infected individual or their body fluids for there to be any risk.
“We await the outcome of the laboratory tests before we will know whether or not this individual had contracted Ebola virus disease,” she said.
“The appropriate public health guidelines are being followed at every stage in this process as a precaution.”
Donegal mayor John Campbell said the county was shocked, but he urged people not to panic.
“It is unconfirmed that it is Ebola at this stage and, even if it was confirmed, the chances of it being passed on to anyone else are very small, so people shouldn’t panic,” he said.
“It’s a big shock in the area. I know the family well and our thoughts are with them.”
Meanwhile, a US aid worker who was discharged from hospital yesterday said he was “thrilled to be alive” .
At a news conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr Kent Brantly, 33, thanked supporters for their prayers.
Another Ebola patient, aid worker Nancy Writebol, 59, was discharged from hospital on Tuesday. She and Dr Brantly were flown to the US for treatment three weeks ago. Both received an experimental treatment known as Zmapp.
The drug, of which there are extremely limited quantities, had never been tested on humans and it remains unclear if it has been directly responsible for their recovery.
Zmapp was also given to a Spanish priest who died and to three Liberian health workers, who are said to be showing signs of improvement.
Some 1,350 people have died during the outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, according to the latest figures released yesterday.