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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)

  • I can't believe someone supposedly intelligent has put people in this country at risk of this fatal disease,totally selfish and with no thought for others...she and anyone else who goes to these countries should stay there and be treated....?caring..irresponsible ...

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  • Selfish is about the last word I would use to describe this nurse. I fit was not for people like her we would have a much bigger problem on our hands. People like her are the ones at the "coalface" and are trying to deal with this outbreak and prevent it from spreading. She went through the screening before her return and even admitted that she was unwell in Heathrow before being told by medical professional she was clear. Where exactly in this process was she being selfish and uncaring. It is people like her that has prevented this disease from spreading by putting her own health at risk.

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  • Anonymous | 2-Jan-2015 9:30 pm

    you would not write that if you and your family caught the disease because it had been left to spread to your area. FOOL!

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  • Anonymous | 2-Jan-2015 11:16 pm

    well said, and society is fortunate to have many more selfless people like her.

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  • sadly comments pages all over the press are full of foolish comments like the first on this page.

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  • contd from above comment /...fuelled by total ignorance.

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  • What a pity the health professionals doing the screening just took the temperature results as an indicator of Paulines health status. What happened to listening to what the patient is telling you?
    Had they listened to her saying she felt ill then quicker action could have been taken and risks minimised.

    So who are the fools now?

    Where they actually health professionals or Atos workers getting it wrong again?

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  • If people want to go to Africa to care for those with ebola great, that's fine by me. But part of the deal should be 3 weeks in compulsory quarantine when they return, no ifs, no buts that's the deal.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Jan-2015 7:16 pm

    kindly provide your arguments and the evidence which demonstrate that quarantine is necessary and should take place. what is the point of making such a suggestion willy-nilly presumably with the intent of saving your own skin bx penalising these individuals who have put their lives on the line if there is not proof such action is required or helpful?

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  • Pussy

    Anon Jan 4th. I just cannot understand why no quarantine. All discussions online so far haven't given me a satisfactory answer eg " it would be too much to ask NHS workers to take an extre 3/52 off!!" I would like a proper scientific answer because it's a very fine line between being infectious & not being & taking a temperature is too basic a measure to make such a decision.

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