A Glaswegian nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to the UK from Sierra Leone is in critical condition.
Pauline Cafferkey was transferred to the Royal Free London Hospital on Monday to receive treatment for the virus which has so far killed thousands across west Africa.
The 39-year-old was reportedly sitting up and talking this week, but has ‘deteriorated’ into a critical condition, hospital sources said today.
It comes as another suspected case of Ebola was reported in Gloucestershire this afternoon.
A brief statement on the hospital’s website said: ‘The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust is sorry to announce that the condition of Pauline Cafferkey has gradually deteriorated over the past two days and is now critical.’
Mrs Cafferkey is being treated in the isolation unit at the hospital where doctors warned her condition may worsen despite showing signs of improvement last week.
She returned to Britain on Sunday after spending five weeks in Africa with other volunteers and Save the Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone.
After disembarking from her flight to Heathrow, the 39-year-old was questioned by officials to whom she complained of a fever.
She was allowed to board a connecting flight to Glasgow however, after having her temperature taken seven times.
Hours after landing in the Scottish city, the nurse was rushed to Gartnavel General Hospital. She was later transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in north London where fellow nurse Will Pooley recovered from the virus earlier this year.
On December 30, specialists at the hospital said Mrs Cafferkey was sitting up, eating and drinking and talking to family despite battling ‘the early phases’ of the disease.
Doctors warned however that her condition may deteriorate.
Upon news her condition had indeed worsened today, Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘My thoughts and prayers are with nurse Pauline Cafferkey who is in a critical condition with Ebola.’
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the nurse was in ‘the best possible care’.
‘My thoughts are with Pauline Cafferkey and her family and friends at this difficult time.
‘I know Dr Mike Jacobs and his team at the Royal Free Hospital are working tirelessly to provide her with the best possible care.’
First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon added: ‘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.’
It comes as another suspected case of Ebola was reported in Swindon, Wiltshire, this afternoon.
The unidentified person reported feeling unwell and is believed to be showing symptoms of the virus.
South Western Ambulance Service’s hazardous area response team were called to a patient who had recently returned to the area from west Africa.
In a statement, Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed it was caring for a patient who was being tested for Ebola after having a history of travel to West Africa.
It read: ‘The Trust is awaiting the results of the sample, which is being screened for a variety of infectious diseases prevalent in the affected countries, one of which is Ebola.
‘Local people, other patients or visitors to the hospital should not be concerned. It is important to remember that contact with blood or other body fluids is needed for Ebola to be transmitted from one person to another.
‘As a precaution the patient is being kept in isolation until blood test results are available.
‘The Trust has robust and established systems in place to manage patients with suspected infectious diseases and will be following agreed and tested national guidance for possible Ebola cases.
‘A range of staff have undergone training in dealing with such patients and appropriate personal protective equipment will be used, much of which forms part of day to day infection prevention and control procedures.
It is not possible to provide any details on the individual being tested or any further information prior to the test result being known.’
Earlier this week doctors warned the nurse may not recover despite showing initial signs of improvement.
‘She’s as well as we can hope for at this stage of the illness. The next few days are critical, things could get worse, but in a week’s time we will know a lot more about where we stand,’ said Dr Michael Jacobs on Tuesday.
‘Ebola is unpredictable, but her illness is at an early stage and that gives her the best possible chance to recover’.
‘As we’ve explained to Pauline, we can’t be as confident as we would like.’
Speaking of the drug being given to the nurse, he said: ‘There’s obviously very good reason to believe it’s going to help her, otherwise we wouldn’t be using it at all, but we simply don’t have enough information to that’s the case.
Earlier this year nurse Will Pooley recovered from the illness at the same isolation unit where Miss Cafferkey is being treated after being given the drug ZMapp.
Doctors have been unable to source the same drug for Miss Cafferkey, though said the two patients’ cases are different.
‘We’re treating Pauline absolutely on her own merits,’ added Dr Jacobs.
Blood fluid from Mr Pooley is being used to aid her recovery. The 29-year-old was the first Briton to be evacuated after contracting the disease having worked in a Sierra Leone hospital.
However experts said the 39-year-old would need luck to make a full recovery from the deadly virus that has so far claimed the lives of almost 8,000 people.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said he believed using blood from a recovered Ebola patient to treat the Scottish nurse was her ‘best chance’ but that it would not ensure her health.
‘The condition of people with Ebola can deteriorate very quickly,’ he said.
‘We have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. It’s the luck of the draw unfortunately.
‘Some people do recover, but soMe don’t make it.
‘We still don’t know enough about Ebola.’
Concerns over the checks in place at UK airports have been raised following Mrs Cafferkey’s positive testing for the disease.
Protocol in place at Heathrow Airport was slammed as ‘shambolic’ after it was revealed the nurse complained of a fever, but was allowed to board a flight to Glasgow despite having her temperature taken six times in one hour.
Martin Deahl, 58, who was part of the same volunteer group as the victim and sat next to her on the plane home from Africa, said: ‘The precautions and checks at the airport were shambolic.
‘There seemed to be too few staff and too few rooms or places to put us in.
‘We were crowded into a small reception area where we waited for an hour or more.
‘I had a higher temperature so they wanted to put me in a room by myself – but they could not find one because they were using every inch of space.’
The consultant psychiatrist from Newport, Shropshire, also described ‘bizarre’ official guidance telling the group they could travel home by public transport – with many boarding crowded buses and Tube trains.
Health officials are frantically appealing for passengers on board each of Miss Cafferkey’s flights to come forward so that they may be tested.
The chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said she would consider if the screening procedure should be altered so people with lower temperatures are tested.
Dame Sally also said there were a lack of staff and ‘process issues’ at Heathrow.
She said: ‘She was cleared to travel because she didn’t have Ebola symptoms including a raised temperature.
‘It does raise a question whether we should be more precautionary. The risk of raised temperature when she came back appears to have been very low.
‘That’s why we look at what we do all the time to see should we have been more precautionary.
‘We regularly keep under review what we are doing because this is a new process.
‘Clearly queuing and things like that are unacceptable and we will review.
‘But we will let people who are well travel because they will not infect the public.’
She added: ‘(Mrs Cafferkey) was well. She had no symptoms. Her temperature was within the acceptable range.
‘She would not be transmitting the virus, therefore she was cleared as fit to fly.’
Currently, any healthcare worker returning from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea – the worst-affected West African countries – undergoes screening with a doctor or nurse after passing through border control.
This involves filling in a questionnaire about how much contact they have had with victims and having their temperature checked with a handheld device, resembling a gun.
If this is 37.5C or above (99.5F) they are sent to hospital for further tests.
The virus can only be spread by bodily fluids such as blood, vomit or saliva. It cannot be caught through the air or from touching an infected patient.
Almost 8,000 people have died across the world since an outbreak of the virus was recorded in west Africa in March.
Among them is Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died in September in Texas after returning to the U.S. following a trip to the African country.
A Spanish nurse who became the first person to contract the virus outside of west Africa in the same month was however cured.
Teresa Romero still does not know how she caught the disease which rendered her to an isolation unit in a Madrid hospital for weeks.
A Norwegian patient who contracted the disease in Sierra Leone was reported as the last person to receive the drug ZMapp, used in William Pooley’s case.
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