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UK nurse Pauline Cafferkey receives experimental ebola drug


A nurse who contracted ebola while working in West Africa is receiving blood plasma treatment and an experimental anti-viral drug at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Pauline Cafferkey, a 39-year-old nurse from Glasgow, has been given convalescent plasma taken from the blood of a patient who has survived ebola – potentially from fellow nurse Will Pooley – alongside an unnamed drug, which is not yet proven to cure the disease.

She tested positive for the virus after returning to the UK on 28 December from Sierra Leone where she worked as a volunteer nurse.

“The disease has a variable course and we will know much more [about the success of the treatment] in a week’s time”

Michael Jacobs

Ms Cafferkey is being cared for at the Royal Free Hospital’s high level isolation unit, the UK’s dedicated centre for treating infectious diseases, including ebola.

Dr Michael Jacobs, infectious diseases consultant at the hospital, said earlier this week that Ms Cafferkey was sitting up in bed, talking and reading following treatment.

However, he warned of the unpredictable nature of the virus and said the medical team caring for Ms Cafferkey would know much more about how successful the treatment had been by next week.

“We are giving her the very best care possible. However, the next few days will be crucial. The disease has a variable course and we will know much more in a week’s time,” he said in a statement.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, Dr Jacobs said that Ms Cafferkey had been involved in detailed discussions with doctors before agreeing to the treatment.

“We have been able to have some very detailed discussions with [Pauline] about the treatment – of course she’s a nurse”

Michael Jacobs

He said: “We have been able to have some very detailed discussions with her about the treatment – of course she’s a nurse, a fellow professional – and we’ve been able to seek the advice of our wider network of international colleagues who work in the field as well to discuss the possibilities and options that we had.”

Public Health England said Ms Cafferkey was screened at Heathrow Airport when she arrived back in the UK, at which point she had no symptoms of a fever – one of the main indicators of the disease.


The body said she was cleared to go home from the airport after a standard series of checks were carried out, overseen by a medical consultant.

In a statement, PHE said it was now contacting all passengers who were on the same flight as Ms Cafferkey to identify any possible cases where the virus may have been passed on.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, said: “The individual involved did not experience any symptoms consistent with the transmission of ebola, and as such, the risk that this infection will have been passed from the affected individual to others is extremely unlikely.

“However as a precaution, PHE is contacting all passengers on the flight to the UK and providing a further level of follow-up for all those in the vicinity of the passenger to ensure anyone who feels unwell undergoes a medical assessment rapidly.”

Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

The Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead



Readers' comments (14)

  • Pussy
    Pussy | 5-Jan-2015 3:27 pm

    you need to research the answers instead of making your own decisions what should and should not be based on your own fears and presentiments!

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  • So much is unknown about this terrible disease surely it makes sense to err on the side of caution and quarantine those who return. The public does not trust what they are told and it would only take one person to become infected for panic to ensue. Just remember what happened with swine flu! Mild in comparison!
    This is a forum for discussion and some of the name calling of people who are suggesting quarantine seems rather unpleasant and personal to me.

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  • Anonymous | 5-Jan-2015 9:25 pm

    try applying a little rational thought together with existing knowledge so far. much is not known about Ebola but it is known how the disease is spread.

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  • Despite multiple warnings of the dangers, funding and training were inadequate.
    Someone (really many someones), in their infinite wisdom, decided that ebola prevention wasn't a priority for funding.

    We makes our choices, we takes our chances, then we pay the piper.

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