An NHS worker diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone has been named as NHS Nurse Pauline Cafferkey.
It is understood Miss Cafferkey 39, an associate public health nurse based at Blantyre Health Centre, South Lanarkshire, was working in Kerry Town in Sierra Leone and contracted the virus after attending a church service on Christmas Day.
She flew back via Casablanca and London Heathrow before arriving at Glasgow Airport at around 11.30pm on a British Airways flight.
The health worker was admitted to hospital early this morning after feeling unwell and was placed into isolation at 7.50am.
The Scottish Government says NHS Scotland infectious diseases procedures have now been put into effect and the patient is receiving treatment in the specialist Brownlee Unit for Infectious Diseases on the Gartnavel Hospital campus.
Miss Cafferkey had been working to combat the disease in west Africa.
In an article published on December 28 by the Scotland on Sunday, Miss Cafferkey said she had been a nurse for 16 years and was inspired to go into the profession after seeing images of the Ethiopian famine on the television in the 1980s.
She said she felt compelled to volunteer with Save the Children to help with the Ebola crisis, which has claimed the lives of more than 7,000 people to date.
She flew out to Freetown in Sierra Leone in November, along with another four Scottish volunteers, as part of a UK group of 30 NHS medical staff.
In her diary, she said: “From the minute I step off the plane in Sierra Leone, the smell of chlorine hits me and a thermometer is pointed at my head.
“The area where the Ebola patients are is classed as the infective Red Zone, and the area surrounding it, the safe Green Zone. Bizarrely we find ourselves saying “good luck” to our colleagues prior to entering the Red Zone, a sobering reminder of what we are doing.
“Feel like the work I am doing is a normal part of life. My nice community- nursing job in Blantyre is far removed from this but at the moment this seems a lot more real. The dreams that I do remember always seem to have an Ebola theme, it seems to be all consuming.”
she also wrote of seeing patients dying from Ebola.
She wrote: “Had an awful shift this week. I was with a lady who was dying. I could tell she didn’t have long, so I was trying to make her comfortable. There was a young boy standing at the window looking in and I waved to him. A few minutes later she had passed away and I heard the boy crying outside the ward. When I went to him, he asked if she had died. I said yes. He said she was his mother. He had already lost his father to Ebola, and now he had no parents. The sad thing is that this is a regular occurrence and we see and hear of whole families being wiped out by this awful disease.”
A Scottish Government statement read: “The patient was admitted to hospital early in the morning after feeling unwell and was placed into isolation at 7.50am. All possible contacts with the patient are now being investigated and anyone deemed to be at risk will be contacted and closely monitored. However, having been diagnosed in the very early stages of the illness, the risk to others is considered extremely low.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR) and said all necessary steps were being taken, and has also spoken to Prime Minister David Cameron.
While public health experts have emphasised that the risks are negligible, a telephone helpline has been set up for anyone who was on the Heathrow to Glasgow flight last night. The number is: 08000 858531
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our first thoughts at this time must be with the patient diagnosed with Ebola and their friends and family. I wish them a speedy recovery.
“Scotland has been preparing for this possibility from the beginning of the outbreak in West Africa and I am confident that we are well prepared.
“We have the robust procedures in place to identify cases rapidly. Our health service also has the expertise and facilities to ensure that confirmed Ebola cases such as this are contained and isolated effectively minimising any potential spread of the disease.
“Scotland’s NHS has proved it is well able to cope with infectious diseases in the past, such as swine flu, and I am confident we will be able to respond effectively again.”
Earlier this year, health experts assured Scots that the risk of an Ebola outbreak was “very low”.
More than 7500 people have been killed by the deadly disease, most of them in West Africa.
France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Norway and Switzerland have all treated patients who contracted the virus in west Africa.
The first Briton confirmed to have Ebola, nurse Will Pooley, was airlifted to hospital in London for specialist treatment and recovered.
Dr Peter Barlow, an expert in respiratory ‘immunology and infection’ at Edinburgh Napier University, told the Evening News earlier in the year: “No-one has contracted the illness here, and that should be very reassuring.
“That being said, I would expect there will be several more cases.”
NHS Scotland has issued a flowchart, pointing out the warning signs that staff should look out for at teaching hospitals in the Lothians, including Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
It includes special advice for dealing with unwell students from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the West African countries from where the outbreak has stemmed.
Bosses at Edinburgh Airport say is “business as usual” although they said they were working closely with the port health authority and Police Scotland.