UK Ebola patient gets experimental drug

William Pooley
Image caption William Pooley volunteered to look after patients in Sierra Leone

William Pooley, the first Briton to contract Ebola during this outbreak, has been given the experimental drug ZMapp.

His doctors say Mr Pooley is a "remarkable and resilient young man" and he "couldn't be in a better place".

The volunteer nurse from Eyke, Suffolk, was exposed to Ebola while working with patients in Sierra Leone.

He returned to the UK on Sunday and is being kept in a special isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

The unit, for patients with highly infectious disease, is the only one of its kind in Europe.

A special tent ensures medical staff can interact with the patient but are separated by plastic and rubber.

Untested drug

Dr Michael Jacobs, consultant and clinical lead in infectious diseases at the Royal Free Hospital, said: "We have had the opportunity to give him the ZMapp treatment.

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Media captionDr Michael Jacobs said that Mr Pooley had been enthusiastic to try the experimental treatment - and understood the risks

"It is an experimental medicine, we made that absolutely clear in our discussions with him."

Staff said he was given the first dose of ZMapp on Monday and further doses are expected to be given to him "in due course".

Dr Mike Jacobs added: "We are giving him the very best care possible. However, the next few days will be crucial."

The experimental drug Mr Pooley is receiving was previously given to two American aid workers who have now recovered from the virus.

But a Spanish priest and Liberian doctor who were also reported to have taken the medication died recently.

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Media captionDr Stephen Mepham explains how the isolation unit works to the BBC's Tulip Mazumdar

The medicine has only previously been tested on animals and experts say it is still unclear whether the drug boosts chances of recovery.

And stocks are extremely limited.

The company that manufactures the drug says all available supplies have been given out.

The team are now working to make more but says this process will take months.

Direct contact

Mr Pooley had worked as a volunteer providing palliative care at The Shepherd's Hospice in Sierra Leone from March until July.

He asked to be relocated to the Kenema Government Hospital to serve on the Ebola treatment ward after he heard reports that patients were being abandoned when health workers died from the virus.

There is no cure for Ebola but with treatment of the symptoms, and proper hydration, patients have a chance of survival.

The virus is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bodily fluids.

More than 2,600 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone have been infected since March, including more than 240 health care workers.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Fruit bats are believed to be a major carrier of the Ebola virus but do not show symptoms
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • 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

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