Suffolk: British volunteer nurse, William Pooley, who contracted deadly Ebola in Sierra Leone is from Eyke
07:48 25 August 2014
A British volunteer nurse who contracted deadly Ebola in Sierra Leone is from Eyke, near Woodbridge, it has emerged.
William Pooley, 29, is being treated at a specialist hospital after being evacuated to the UK.
He was named by Dr Robert Garry, an American scientist who worked at the same hospital as him in the west Africa country.
It is the first confirmed case of a Briton contracting the virus during the recent outbreak.
There is no cure for Ebola and outbreaks have a fatality rate of up to 90%.
Mr Pooley tested positive for Ebola after treating patients suffering from the virus at Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) in the south-east of Sierra Leone.
He was airlifted to the UK on a specially equipped C17 Royal Air Force jet, landing at RAF Northolt in west London at 9pm. He was then transported to the UK’s only high level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London.
The Department of Health said he was not “seriously unwell”. Health chiefs insisted that the risk to the British public from Ebola is “very low”.
Dr Garry, of Tulane University in New Orleans, US, has worked at KGH for around a decade on a virus research project.
He said he was told by a university colleague that the test results for Mr Pooley were received in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“They worked as hard as they could, as fast as humanly possible to make these arrangements,” he said.
“Of course they were wanting to make sure that he got the best care possible. It was kind of a remarkable turnaround, barely over 24 hours (later) he was heading towards that plane.”
Mr Pooley was working at a hospice in the capital Freetown but moved to Kenema when he heard that other healthcare workers at KGH had died from Ebola.
In an interview with a blogger for freetownfashpack.com published earlier this month, he is reported to have said: “It’s the easiest situation in the world to make a difference.
“I’m not particularly experienced or skilled, but I can do the job and I am actually helping.”
Dr Garry paid tribute to Mr Pooley’s decision to treat Ebola sufferers.
“It’s a very honourable thing. He saw the need. He read about our nurses who were unfortunately dying there and took it on himself to come over and volunteer and learned how to be as safe as he could.
“But when you work hard like that, when you put in so many hours, you’re going to make a mistake and unfortunately that seems to have happened in this case.
“I just hope the best for him, that he can get the best treatment he can get.
“He’s a young man, he’s got a good chance. It was caught early.”
Mr Pooley’s bed at the Royal Free Hospital is surrounded by a specially-designed tent with its own controlled ventilation system. Only specially-trained medical staff are allowed inside the unit.
Professor John Watson, deputy chief medical officer, insisted that “the overall risk to the public in the UK remains very low”.
He said: “We have robust, well-developed and well-tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases when they arise, supported by a wide range of experts.
“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.”
Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection at Public Health England, said protective measures would be strictly maintained to avoid the virus being transmitted to staff transporting the patient and healthcare workers in the UK.
He added: “For Ebola to be transmitted from one person to another contact with blood or other body fluids is needed and as such, the risk to the general population remains very low.”
Dr Bob Winter, national clinical director for emergency preparedness and critical care for NHS England, said preparations have been made over the past few weeks to ensure any patient being repatriated to the UK receives the best possible care.
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