British nurse infected with Ebola in critical condition: Hospital

A British nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from Sierra Leone is wheeled in a quarantine tent trolley onto a Hercules Transport plane at Glasgow International Airport on Dec 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A British nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from Sierra Leone is wheeled in a quarantine tent trolley onto a Hercules Transport plane at Glasgow International Airport on Dec 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - A British nurse who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and was hospitalised in London this week is now in a “critical” condition, the hospital treating her said Saturday.

“The condition of Pauline Cafferkey has gradually deteriorated over the past two days and is now critical,” the Royal Free Hospital in London said in a statement.

On Wednesday, doctors had said the 39-year-old Scot was sitting up in bed, reading and talking to staff from inside her isolation tent in the hospital.

They said Ms Cafferkey, who was working with the charity Save the Children in Sierra Leone, had agreed to have blood plasma treatment and take an experimental anti-viral drug.

However, they were not able to give her ZMapp, the drug successfully used to treat fellow British volunteer nurse William Pooley, because global supplies had run out.

The plasma was taken from the blood of a patient successfully treated in Europe, in the hope that the antibodies it contained would help her fight the virus.

Doctor Michael Jacobs, infectious diseases consultant at the Royal Free, had warned at the time that “Ebola runs a very variable course and the next few days are going to be very critical”.

Ms Cafferkey, who works for the state-run National Health Service in Scotland, had been volunteering at a British-built treatment centre in Kerry Town when she contracted the deadly virus.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our thoughts continue to be with Pauline Cafferkey and her family during this extremely distressing time.

“I would like to thank all of the health professionals involved in treating Pauline, as they continue to show tremendous dedication and expertise.”

382 HEALTH WORKERS KILLED

Ms Cafferkey is the second person to be treated for Ebola in Britain after Mr Pooley, who recovered and has since returned to Sierra Leone.

She was diagnosed in Glasgow on Dec 29 after flying home, and was transferred to the Royal Free, which has the only isolation ward in Britain equipped for Ebola patients.

British health authorities said Friday they had traced all the British-based passengers who travelled on the last two legs of Ms Cafferkey’s journey to Scotland.

She flew from Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown to Casablanca in Morocco, and then on to London Heathrow Airport and finally Glasgow.

Her temperature was taken at Heathrow but did not raise alarms, and she was cleared to fly on to Glasgow.

Ebola has killed 7,890 people in the past year, out of 20,171 cases, according to the latest tally by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Almost all the deaths and cases have been recorded in the three west African countries worst hit by the outbreak: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

It is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting, and as such people caring for the sick are particularly exposed.

As of Dec 28 – not counting Ms Cafferkey – a total of 678 health-care workers were known to have contracted the virus, and 382 of them had died, the WHO said.