Ebola ruled out in death of Briton in Macedonia - alcohol may have been cause

Journalists from England speak with a police officer outside the hotel in quarantine, in Skopje on Oct 10, 2014, following the Oct 9 death of a British man in Skopje, who allegedly displayed Ebola-like symptoms, which include fever and vomiting. -- P
Journalists from England speak with a police officer outside the hotel in quarantine, in Skopje on Oct 10, 2014, following the Oct 9 death of a British man in Skopje, who allegedly displayed Ebola-like symptoms, which include fever and vomiting. -- PHOTO: AFP

SKOPJE (REUTERS) - Macedonia on Saturday ruled out the Ebola virus as the cause of death of a British man in the Balkan country on Thursday.

"We have just received the results from the lab in Hamburg and they are negative for Ebola, which means that the patient did not have the Ebola virus," said Dr Jovanka Kostovska of the Health Ministry's commission for infectious diseases.

Authorities sealed off the hotel where the Briton had been staying and put 35 people in isolation on Thursday when he died.

The man had arrived in hospital a few hours earlier suffering from fever, vomiting and internal bleeding, all symptoms of Ebola.

A senior health official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Friday that authorities had "serious indications" that the man had consumed large amounts of alcohol.

"So the theory that this might be the cause of death is very much in play," he said.

Kostovska said the cause of death was not yet known but that an autopsy would be carried out.

Confirmation that alcohol, not Ebola, was the culprit will only underscore the panic and difficulty facing hospitals and governments in responding to the threat of the disease spreading in Europe.

A nurse in Spain was the first person to have contracted Ebola outside of Africa. She had helped to treat two priests who had contracted the disease in Africa.

The world's worst Ebola epidemic since the disease was identified in 1976 has killed more than 4,000 people, mainly in West Africa.

The virus, spread by contact with bodily fluids, causes fever and potentially fatal bleeding.