Ebola: British man begins treatment in London hospital

British aid volunteer William Pooley, who worked with The Shepherd's Hospice to provide palliative care in Sierra Leone Image copyright The Shepherd's Hospice
Image caption William Pooley, seen here, worked as a volunteer for The Shepherd's Hospice in Sierra Leone before he moved to serve on an Ebola treatment ward

Doctors at a hospital in north-west London have begun treating a Briton who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone.

William Pooley, a 29-year-old volunteer nurse, was described by a charity he worked for as a "hero".

Mr Pooley was flown to RAF Northolt in a specially equipped military aircraft on Sunday and taken under police escort to Hampstead's Royal Free Hospital.

He volunteered to go to care for victims of the Ebola outbreak which has killed almost 1,500 people.

His is the first confirmed case of a Briton contracting the virus during the current outbreak.

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Media captionTropical disease specialist David Mabey: Patient poses no risk to others

'Remarkable man'

Mr Pooley, believed to be from near Woodbridge in Suffolk, was flown out of Sierra Leone's main airport in Lungi, in a RAF C-17 transport aircraft.

He will be treated in a specialist isolation unit for patients with highly infectious disease, 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.

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

He then requested 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.

Gabriel Madiye, the executive director of The Shepherd's Hospice, said Mr Pooley had been aware of the risks, but was determined to work there.

"We consider him a hero," he said. "Somebody who is sacrificing to provide care in very difficult circumstances - when our own health workers are running away."

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Media captionCo-worker Gabriel Madiye tells 5 live: "We consider him a hero"

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

Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at Nottingham University, said there would be immediate testing to ensure all organs were functioning.

"He really is in the best place and will have the best possible care," he said.

At the scene

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Media captionA specialist isolation ward has been set up at the hospital in London

Jon Ironmonger, BBC News

Whisked into the Royal Free Hospital late on Sunday night under police escort was a man whose noisy arrival was quickly replaced by the everyday comings and goings of a rainy bank holiday morning.

Inside the building a rare drama is unfolding - the meticulous treatment of the first British person infected by the Ebola outbreak.

The volunteer nurse is being treated in an isolation unit which is the only one of its kind in Europe, and more sophisticated than any facility in west Africa.

Doctors will interact with him behind the plastic of an airtight tent to avoid the risk of contamination.

They will attend to his symptoms, particularly dehydration, but Ebola has no proven cure, so the main battle is down to him and his body's ability to fight the virus.

Last week, two Americans who had contracted the disease in Liberia made a recovery and were discharged from hospital after being given an experimental drug called ZMapp in the US.

Officials in Liberia also said three medical staff have shown signs of improvement after taking the drug.

The US manufacturer of ZMapp has said supplies of the drug are exhausted, but the Department of Health said it was working to source any remaining doses.

Department of Health deputy chief medical officer Prof John Watson has said the risk of Ebola to the UK remains "very low".

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Media captionHealth officials insist the risk to the UK from Ebola remains "very low"

The World Health Organization has estimated 2,615 people in west Africa have been infected with Ebola since March.

Health officials have reported the first cases outside west Africa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bodily fluids. It is one of the world's deadliest diseases, potentially with a mortality rate of 90%. However, the current outbreak has a fatality rate of 55%.

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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