UK passengers on Ebola flights traced

Pauline Cafferkey
Image caption Pauline Cafferkey boarded flights from Casablanca to Heathrow and from Heathrow to Glasgow

All the UK-based passengers and crew on two flights taken by a British nurse who contracted Ebola have now received health advice, officials say.

Pauline Cafferkey was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from Sierra Leone and is receiving specialist treatment at London's Royal Free Hospital.

She flew from Casablanca to Heathrow, where she boarded a flight to Glasgow.

Passengers and crews on the flights were given "advice and reassurance", a Public Health England spokeswoman said.

Officials from Health Protection Scotland had spoken to all 71 passengers and members of crew aboard the British Airways flight from Heathrow to Glasgow, a PHE spokeswoman said.

And all 101 UK-based passengers and crew aboard the Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca to Heathrow had been contacted by officials from Public Health England.

The remaining 31 international passengers on the flight were being traced by international public health authorities, the spokeswoman added.

'Best opportunity'

The Moroccan Ministry of Health has also been tracing passengers who were on the first Royal Air Maroc flight, into Casablanca from Freetown in Sierra Leone, as a precautionary measure.

All passengers on that flight had been screened before they left Freetown and on their arrival in Casablanca, PHE said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Pauline Cafferkey was transferred from Glasgow by a RAF Hercules plane

Ms Cafferkey - who was working in the West African country as part of a Save the Children team - was also screened for the disease at Heathrow and told officials she believed a fever might be developing.

Her temperature was taken seven times in total on Sunday and was normal each time, so she was allowed to fly home to Scotland.

She was placed in an isolation unit at Gartnavel Hospital in Glasgow after becoming feverish on Monday and then transferred by RAF Hercules plane to London and on to the Royal Free's specialist treatment centre on Tuesday.

The nurse, who is based at Blantyre Health Centre in South Lanarkshire, faces a "critical" few days as she is treated with an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from a survivor of the virus, her doctor has said.

Dr Michael Jacobs said Ms Cafferkey was in an early phase of the disease which gave the hospital the "best opportunity to give her treatment".

She had been sitting up and talking, was able to read, eat and drink, and had been in communication with her family, he added.

Image caption Ms Cafferkey had travelled from Freetown in Sierra Leone via Casablanca

Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, vomit or faeces.

The virus has killed more than 7,800 people, mostly in West Africa, since it broke out a year ago.

The World Health Organization says the number of people infected by the disease in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea has now passed 20,000.

Temperature screening

  • A normal body temperature is considered 37C
  • A raised temperature is one sign of Ebola and forms a core part of entry screening
  • The UK uses a relatively tough 37.5C as the cut-off for further testing
  • Belgium and Australia use a higher threshold of 38C
  • India uses 38.3C
  • Spain and the US use 38.6C

Source: The Lancet

Ms Cafferkey is the second UK case of Ebola. Another nurse - William Pooley - recovered from Ebola in September after also being treated at the Royal Free Hospital.

He donated some blood plasma and was treated with the anti-viral drug ZMapp, of which there are no stocks left.

Dr Jacobs said the cases "were quite separate from one another".

"We're starting from the beginning again," he said. "We're treating Pauline absolutely on her own merits."

He said there was "a European pool" of recovered patients' blood plasma and they had identified "the best plasma for her".

It is hoped the antibodies in the plasma will help Ms Cafferkey's immune system fight the disease.

What are the symptoms?

Image caption The Ebola virus causes a range of painful and debilitating symptoms

The early symptoms are a sudden fever, muscle pain, fatigue, headache and sore throat.

This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, a rash and bleeding - both internal and external - which can be seen in the gums, eyes, nose and in the stools.

Patients tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, director of healthy charity the Wellcome Trust, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he thought the Ebola epidemic would come to an end at some stage during 2015.

"But the epidemic is still currently going on particularly in rural areas which are difficult to reach. It will be a very long tail to the end of this epidemic, which I think will go on for most of 2015," he said.