A British nurse who was successfully treated in January after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone was in a serious condition in hospital Friday due to rare late complications with the virus.
Pauline Cafferkey, who voluntarily went to the west African country to treat Ebola patients, was flown from a Glasgow hospital to London’s Royal Free Hospital, which houses Britain’s only isolation ward for the lethal disease.
She had been admitted to hospital in Glasgow on Tuesday after feeling unwell.
She was transferred to London in a military aircraft early Friday “due to an unusual late complication of her previous infection by the Ebola virus”, the Royal Free said in a statement.
She was being treated in the isolation ward.
Cafferkey “is in a serious condition,” the hospital said.
It added: “The Ebola virus can only be transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person while they are symptomatic so the risk to the general public remains low.”
The Scottish health authorities were to get in touch with a small number of Cafferkey’s close contacts as a precaution.
Cafferkey was diagnosed with Ebola in December after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone.
She spent almost a month in the isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital and was treated with an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from survivors of the Ebola disease.
Details of her condition have not been disclosed for reasons of patient confidentiality.
Doctor Ben Neuman, a lecturer in virology at the University of Reading, said Cafferkey could be only the second known case of “reactivated” Ebola.
“Over the past few years, there has been mounting evidence of the mental and physical problems in Ebola survivors that can last for years after the virus is cleared from the bloodstream,” he told the Science Media Centre in London.
“The newly-discovered twist on this post-Ebola syndrome is that, in some cases, the health problems — often including damage to the eyes and joints — is actually caused by live Ebola virus growing in bodily fluids in some of the less accessible compartments of the body.”
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there had been no new confirmed Ebola cases in the past week — the first such lull in a year and a half.
The deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak since the virus was identified in central Africa in 1976 has killed 11,312 of the 28,457 people infected since December of 2013, according to the latest WHO figures.
Nearly all the victims have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.