Ebola in the United Kingdom: Nurse Receives Blood Plasma of Survivors

London – Pauline Cafferkey is currently being treated with an experimental drug and blood plasma from survivor Will Pooley. But her case raises questions about disease control and Ebola in the United Kingdom.

She wanted to help and is now in the hospital herself. Nevertheless, the British nurse infected with Ebola is doing well under the circumstances.

“Ms Cafferkey is not feeling well but it would be fair to say that she is as well as we can hope for at this stage of the illness. She is sitting up, talking, reading, eating and drinking a little, and has also had face-to-face communication with her family through an intercom system,”

said Dr Michael Jacobs. He didn’t want to comment about her prognosis for the next few days because the disease is so unpredictable.

Pauline Cafferkey, a nurse from Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, who is reported to be the woman diagnosed with Ebola |  Photo: EPA
Pauline Cafferkey, a nurse from Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, who is reported to be the woman diagnosed with Ebola | Photo: EPA

Cafferkey became infected during an Ebola aid mission for the charity organization Save The Children in Sierra Leone and was ill after their return to the UK on Sunday evening. She’s being cared for in a special Ebola isolation ward at the Royal Free Hospital in London. British Ebola survivor William Pooley was treated and cured at the same hospital last September after he had been infected in Sierra Leone. He donated 1.2 liters of his plasma for future research and treatment before returning to West Africa in October.

According to the doctors, she is currently receiving an experimental drug, but they declined to mention the name because it’s an experimental antiviral drug, which had not yet been proven to work. In addition, she is currently treated with “convalescent plasma” taken from the blood of an European Ebola survivor. People who have survived the disease are considered to be immune for life. Researchers hope to be able to treat patients with antibodies from the blood of survivors, but still lack a proven healing drug.

Are British Ebola Screening Procedures Effective?

The case has caused doubts about the effectiveness of screening procedures for travellers with Ebola risk in United Kingdom. Since October, more than 1,700 people have been examined at four airports and an international station, who came from West Africa. Even Cafferkey was screened, but was allowed to fly from London Heathrow airport to Glasgow. Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, confirmed that Cafferkey was in the early stages of the disease while she was flying home. Davies stressed the public health risks were therefore negligible but confirmed that the UK’s screening policies were being reconsidered. “The process does seem to have not been as good as we all want to see,” she said.

Ebola-infected people are only contagious when the disease breaks out. Up to three weeks can pass between infection and the first symptoms.The virus is transmitted when body fluids of patients – such as blood or vomit – get on mucous membranes, infection via contaminated surfaces is possible.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has registered 20.206 Ebola cases since December 31st and about 7905 people had died as the consequences of infection from the virus, the UN agency said. But, there might be a high number of unreported cases according to experts. Especially the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that are worst affected by the epidemic.

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