Northern Ireland

Ebola: 'Negative test result' on Belfast patient

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionJim Wells said patients who test positive for the virus will be sent to the Royal Free Hospital in London for treatment

A patient in a Belfast hospital tested for Ebola does not have the virus, the Public Health Agency (PHA) has confirmed.

The person, believed to be a woman, is being treated in an isolation unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

The patient tested positive for malaria. A blood sample was tested to find out if the patient also had Ebola as they had been to Sierra Leone.

The PHA confirmed on Monday afternoon that the test was negative.

"Tests have come back negative for Ebola in this patient, but the effective and seamless way in which the case was managed reiterates how important it has been for the health service to prepare for all eventualities," Dr Lorraine Doherty of the PHA said.

"This incident has further tested the measures that are in place to deal with a suspected case of Ebola and has shown them to be robust, and it will contribute our continued work in this area.".

Earlier, Health Minister Jim Wells told the assembly that even in the worst situation, the numbers of Ebola cases in Northern Ireland would be expected to be in single figures.

He acknowledged this would be "a matter of great concern to the public", but added that it "would not place an inordinate burden on the health service".

The health minister told MLAs that if anyone in Northern Ireland tested positive for Ebola, they would be flown to the Royal Free Hospital in London for treatment.

The BBC understands the patient has been in the Royal Victoria Hospital's special isolation unit since Friday.

It is not yet known if the patient is a man or a woman.

Protective clothing

The PHA said the person in question was being assessed and tested in accordance with a national contingency plan.

In line with national guidelines, nursing staff are wearing protective clothing while caring for the patient.

BBC News NI health correspondent Marie-Louise Connolly said if an Ebola case is confirmed in Northern Ireland, the patient would be categorised according to risk.

Category one is a low risk patient, while category four would mean the Royal Air Force would transport the patient to England.

Last month, it was announced that senior doctors in Northern Ireland had been putting contingency plans in place for an outbreak of Ebola.

Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, can be a severe illness in humans

The PHA said it was keeping in regular contact with staff across the health service and advised that there was no increased risk to other patients or the wider community.

It said there was no change to the current situation in Northern Ireland in that the risk to the public was "very low".

Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, can be a severe illness in humans.

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms, is two to 21 days.

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites