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expert reaction to news that a UK military healthcare worker in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola

A British military healthcare worker has tested positive for the Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone. It is being reported that they are receiving treatment but that no decision has yet been made on repatriation.


Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said:

“In every Ebolavirus outbreak, healthcare workers selflessly put themselves into the firing line. There are very clear and well-developed procedures in force when caring for Ebolavirus-infected patients and these greatly reduce the risk of infection. However, no matter how rigorous these procedures are, you can never remove all risk.

“Whilst excellent facilities have been established in the Sierra Leone treatment centres, it may well be the case that this person is returned to the UK. No doubt, the team in charge of this unfortunate volunteer is carefully assessing the best way to ensure that this person gets the standard of care that they need.”


Dr Ben Neuman, Virologist, University of Reading, said:

“The massive global response to the crisis means we are now finally beating this Ebola outbreak. But the battle is not won yet. The biggest remaining challenge is Sierra Leone where British personnel are based.

“This case is a timely reminder of how dangerous Ebola is. The UK has some of the finest military and medical personnel in the world, but with Ebola one tiny slip can be fatal.

“It’s likely that the patient will be repatriated to the UK where they will receive the best possible care. I sincerely hope the worker pulls through – brave people deserve good things to happen to them.”


Prof. Andrew Easton, Professor of Virology, University of Warwick, said:

“This is obviously very distressing news to hear when the numbers of cases are reducing and there are signs and hopes that the outbreak is beginning to show signs of ending. The primary concern now will be to make a full assessment of the patient and this will include consideration of whether and how they may be returned to a specialist facility in the UK for treatment. If this happens it is likely to be in the very near future to provide the best opportunity for early treatment which provides the best likelihood of a successful recovery.

“Once the decisions about the patient have been made, attention will undoubtedly focus on how they became infected. This incident reinforces the fact that Ebola virus remains a significant threat, particularly to healthcare workers in high risk areas, and that all suitable protective measures should remain in place until the danger of infection is removed. While the reduction in cases is a very promising sign, past outbreaks have shown a long lag before complete elimination of the virus from the infected area and this unfortunate event reinforces that vigilance is still required and may be required for some time to come in this area of West Africa.”


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