Plane carrying British nurse with Ebola leaves Sierra Leone for Britain

Senior Matron Breda Athan demonstrates putting on the protective suit, which would be used if it becomes necessary to treat Ebola patients, at The Royal Free Hospital in London on Aug 12, 2014. A Royal Air Force plane carrying a British citizen
Senior Matron Breda Athan demonstrates putting on the protective suit, which would be used if it becomes necessary to treat Ebola patients, at The Royal Free Hospital in London on Aug 12, 2014. A Royal Air Force plane carrying a British citizen who contracted the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone took off from the airport in the capital Freetown on Sunday, Aug 24, 2014, bound for Britain. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

FREETOWN (AFP) - A British nurse who contracted the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone is being flown back to London for treatment, officials said on Sunday.

The Department of Health in London said the patient was currently on a military plane flying home and, while not seriously ill, would be treated at an isolation unit at a London hospital.

A spokesman for Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health, Yahya Tunis, said the man was a volunteer nurse working in Kenema in eastern Sierra Leone, one of the areas hardest hit by Ebola which has now been quarantined.

“His colleagues are very sad over the development as he is considered as a valued member,” Tunis said, adding that he was involved in “surveillance, contact tracing and the burial of Ebola victims.”

The Briton is the first person from the country to have contracted the virus in an outbreak that has killed at least 1,427 people in West Africa since March.

The Department of Health said the victim was currently being evacuated in a specially equipped C17 Royal Air Force military plane to RAF Northolt outside London.

On arrival, the victim will be taken in a special military ambulance to Britain’s only specialist Ebola isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor John Watson insisted that the risk of the virus being spread in Britain remained “very low”.

“UK hospitals have a proven record of dealing with imported infectious diseases and this patient will be isolated and will receive the best care possible,” he added.

Ebola spreads through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.

The Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that the man was working for a charity in Sierra Leone.

The Ebola epidemic has spread through Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, while Nigeria has also been affected.

It is the worst-ever outbreak of the killer virus.

The World Health Organisation  has warned it could take several months to bring the epidemic under control.