Pauline Cafferkey, Ebola nurse


On 29 December 2014, Pauline Cafferkey, a British aid worker who had just returned to Glasgow from Sierra Leone via Casablanca Airport and London Heathrow Airport, was diagnosed with Ebola at Glasgow’s Gartnavel General Hospital.

The nurse who worked at Blantyre Health Centre had been working at an Ebola treatment centre in Kerry Town in Sierra Leone and it is thought she contracted the virus as a result of wearing a visor, as recommended by the World Health Organization and the UK Ministry of Defence, instead of goggles.

After initial treatment in Glasgow, she was transferred by air to RAF Northolt, then to the specialist high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London for longer-term treatment. A Scottish government spokesman described the risk to the general public as “extremely low to the point of negligible” due to the very early stage of the infection at the time of detection.

Contact tracing was carried out on the other passengers who traveled on the flight from London to Glasgow with her. Medical staff described her condition at the time as “as well as we can hope for at this stage.”

On 4 January 2015, the Royal Free Hospital announced that her condition had deteriorated to critical, with her health later stabilising before she was declared no longer critically ill on 12 January.

Cafferkey received blood plasma from William Pooley and has been treated with experimental drugs as part of her treatment. On 24 January, she was declared to be free of infection, and released from hospital.

Due to the fact that Pauline Cafferkey had passed through border controls and travelled on a domestic flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, criticism was levelled at current screening protocols at UK points of entry, which mainly consist of taking a person’s temperature and asking a series of questions. When she boarded her flight, her symptoms had not yet developed, making a diagnosis hard to detect. It was found in 2015 that, after an apparent complete cure, with the bloodstream, saliva and organs such as the liver free of the Ebola virus, it can linger on in parts of the body not protected by the immune system, including fluid in the eye, the central nervous system and, in men, the testes and semen.

Cafferkey went to a 24-hour GP clinic in New Victoria Hospital in Glasgow on the night of 5 October 2015 and was diagnosed with “a virus” (unspecified) and sent home. 24 hours later she was admitted to Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where she was diagnosed with late complications caused by the Ebola virus hitherto considered unusual, and was flown by military jet to London, to the Royal Free Hospital.

Her condition was initially described as serious and she was being treated in the high-level isolation unit. Doctors discovered that, after she had been deemed cured, the virus had remained in her cerebrospinal fluid and feared that it might be in her central nervous system. Personnel in Scotland monitored those whom she had come into contact with, since the virus can be spread through exposure to the infected person’s body fluids, though they said the risk was likely to be small.

Her condition declined rapidly, and on 14 October 2015 she was reported to be critically ill. Five days later, on 19 October 2015, the Royal Free Hospital announced that: “Pauline Cafferkey’s condition has improved to serious but stable. On 12 November 2015 the Royal Free Hospital said that Cafferkey had made a full recovery and was no longer infectious.

It’s clear Pauline has been through a tough ordeal and a real rollercoaster of a recovery. Her case remains fairly high profile with frequent press reports about her ordeal and how it was handled.

Primary Source: Wikipedia.

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