Ebola health worker flown back to UK after needle accident with patient in Sierra Leone

The unnamed military medic has not been diagnosed with the deadly disease

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The Independent Online

A British military health worker has been flown back to the UK after being exposed to Ebola while treating a patient in Sierra Leone.

The unnamed medic has not been diagnosed with the deadly virus but was admitted to the specialist centre at London's Royal Free Hospital for assessment and is being kept in isolation as a precaution.

No details have been released about the patient, who was treating an Ebola patient when they were pierced by a needle, known in medical terms as a needlestick injury.

British military personnel train for a deployment to Sierra Leone in support of the ebola outbreak in the country

Public Health England (PHE) said the patient is likely to have been exposed to the Ebola virus but has not been diagnosed and does not have symptoms. Their relatives have been informed.

Professor Paul Cosford, PHE’s director for health protection, said: “Our thoughts are with this person, who has been courageous in helping those affected in West Africa, and in preventing the wider spread of Ebola.

“We have strict, well-tested protocols in place for this eventuality and we are confident that all appropriate actions have been taken to support the healthcare worker concerned and to protect the health of other people.”

The patient arrived back into the UK on an RAF flight today and will be monitored for the remainder of Ebola's 21-day incubation period, in line with PHE’s standard procedures for returning health workers.

It was not officially confirmed where the worker was based in Sierra Leone, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the disease outbreak that has killed more than 8,600 people so far.

About 100 soldiers from the Royal Army Medical Corps were sent to the country in October as part of the British government's £330 million effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Health care workers at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre

The money funded a 92-bed treatment facility in Kerry Town where British Army medics work alongside NHS volunteers.

The Kerry Town complex includes an 80-bed treatment centre managed by Save the Children and a 12-bed centre staffed by British Army medics specifically for health care workers and international staff responding to the Ebola crisis.

Pauline Cafferkey, the Scottish nurse who recently recovered after contracting Ebola, worked there from November. Officials have never confirmed how she caught the disease.

Another British nurse who was successfully treated for Ebola, William Pooley, had been volunteering at the Kenema Government Hospital, also in Sierra Leone.

Nurse Pauline Cafferkey made a full recovery

There is one known case of a British person contracting Ebola in a needlestick accident. In November 1976, after the virus first emerged, Geoffrey Platt accidentally pricked his finger while taking a sample from an infected guinea pig while conducting research at Porton Down military research centre in Wiltshire.

The laboratory technician was kept in isolation for 40 days but made a full recovery.

The World Health Organisation said earlier this month that a “turning point” had been reached with the number of new cases falling in all three worst-affected countries, with just eight cases detected in Liberia in the week ending 18 January – down from a peak of 509 in September.

Cases in Sierra Leone remain high, at 117 per week, but this is also a major improvement on the peak of 748.

Health workers have been particularly badly hit, with 828 infected in West Africa and 499 of those killed by the disease.