Health

British Ebola patient discharged

  • 3 September 2014
  • From the section Health

The first British person to contract Ebola during the outbreak in West Africa has been discharged from hospital after making a full recovery.

William Pooley, 29, has been treated in a special isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Mr Pooley was given the experimental drug ZMapp and has praised the "world class" care at the hospital.

About half of the 3,000 people infected in the outbreak, which started in Guinea, have died.

The pace of the outbreak has been accelerating with more than 40% of cases in the past three weeks.

Mr Pooley was working as a volunteer nurse in one of the worst affected countries, Sierra Leone, when he contracted the virus.

He is unsure when he became infected, but started feeling sick and needed a blood test.

He recalled the moment his fears were confirmed: "I was woken early that evening by one of the World Health Organization doctors and immediately I knew it was bad news.

"I was worried that I was going to die, I was worried about my family and I was scared."

'Very lucky'

Mr Pooley has been treated at a specialist isolation unit at London's Royal Free Hospital

He was flown back to the UK by the RAF on Sunday 24 August.

Mr Pooley was in the earlier stages of the disease. He had a high temperature but was not bleeding.

He said: "I was very lucky in several ways; firstly in the standard of care I received, which is a world apart from what people are receiving in West Africa at the moment.

"And my symptoms never progressed to the worst stage of the disease, I've seen people dying horrible deaths, I had some unpleasant symptoms, but nothing compared to the worst of the disease."

He was treated with the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, a 12-hour infusion of antibodies, that has been given to only six other patients.

It is not clear if the infusion helped, but levels of the virus in his bloodstream did fall significantly after the treatment.

Dr Michael Jacobs, an infectious diseases consultant at the hospital, said: "He is not infectious to anyone else now. The virus is cleared from the body, and there is no risk to the wider community in any way."

He said the isolation unit Mr Pooley had been kept in was going through chemical decontamination.

"This unit is always there, it's business-as-usual for us, we were prepared for this to happen and we're prepared if it happens again."

Heroes

The global response to the disease has been "lethally inadequate", according to the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Estimates suggest up to 20,000 people will be infected during this outbreak.

Overall, 51% of those infected have died - ranging from 41% in Sierra Leone to 66% in Guinea.

Mr Pooley praised the efforts of other people working on the ground.

"It's just heroic what they're doing, they know what might be facing them," he said.

"In the face of quite likely a horrible death, they're continuing to work all day, every day helping sick people, it's amazing."

He said it had felt "natural" to go and help in West Africa, that he had no regrets and was "more committed than ever to nursing".

Mr Pooley is heading back to Eyke in Suffolk with his family this afternoon.

"They incinerated my passport, so my mum will be pleased to know I can't go anywhere," he added.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host