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expert reaction to UK military healthcare worker being flown back to Royal Free Hospital for monitoring for Ebola after needlestick injury while treating Ebola patient

A patient has been admitted to the Royal Free Hospital in London for assessment following exposure to the Ebola virus through a needlestick injury in Sierra Leone.


Dr Peter Walsh, University Lecturer in Primate Quantitative Ecology and researcher in emergent disease dynamics, Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge, said:

“Previous needle stick incidents have occurred in laboratory settings in the United States and Germany. The most recent case in Germany was treated post-exposure with a vaccine similar to the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) now being trialed in humans. This patient tolerated the vaccine well and did not develop Ebola symptoms, although this may simply have been due to the absence of Ebola infection, as no Ebola virus was ever isolated from the patient.”


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

“Needlestick injury is probably one the most dangerous risks for infection, as the virus is potentially delivered directly into the bloodstream.

“There have been past cases of needlestick injuries, and not all people have become infected, so hopefully this will be the outcome here.

“Careful monitoring and ebolavirus testing will determine if the person has been exposed and infected. There are examples where people have been given post-exposure prophylaxis – where antivirals or vaccines are given to try to prevent an infection from happening (see Of course, the problem is ebola vaccines and drugs are still unproven.

“Also it is difficult to tell if the intervention has worked even when the person remains Ebolavirus negative.”


Declared interests

None declared


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