UK Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey's condition has 'stabilised' but still critical, Jeremy Hunt says

The Scottish NHS nurse contracted the deadly virus while volunteering in Sierra Leone

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The Independent Online

The condition of the Scottish nurse being treated for Ebola has stabilised, according to the Health Secretary.

Jeremy Hunt said Pauline Cafferkey remains in a critical condition at London's Royal Free Hospital, where she receiving the "best possible care" in isolation.

“She said in Sierra Leone that she hoped her loved ones would be proud of her," he told MPs in the House of Commons.

"Well, she should know today the whole country is proud of her for her bravery and dedication to the service of others.

“She stands, quite simply, for the very best of NHS values."

His statement this afternoon came as Save the Children, which ran the treatment centre where she worked in Sierra Leone, promised that a review into how she contracted the disease will leave "no stone unturned".

Pauline Cafferkey worked with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone

Mrs Cafferkey, a NHS nurse, caught the deadly virus despite the use of protective equipment and strict infection controls.

She became the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the UK last week, after she returned to Glasgow, sparking an operation to trace other passengers on her flights.

The 39-year-old is being treated at the Royal Free Hospital in London. It houses the UK's specialist treatment centre for the disease, which has killed almost 8,000 people worldwide.

A spokesperson for the hospital said on Saturday that her condition had "gradually deteriorated over the past two days" to become critical.

The convoy carrying Pauline Cafferkey arrives at The Royal Free hospital in London

Just three days before, doctors had issued happier news that Mrs Cafferkey was “sitting up in bed, talking and reading”.

She chose to receive plasma treatment, which uses the blood of Ebola survivors, as well as an experimental anti-viral drug that was not officially named.

Ms Cafferkey was admitted to the Royal Free last Tuesday after being diagnosed the previous day by doctors in Glasgow, where she had arrived from Heathrow after flying from Sierra Leone via Casablanca in Morocco.

She had undergone several health checks during her journey and despite complaining of feeling feverish she was allowed to continue to her home in South Lanarkshire.

Mrs Cafferkey had worked as a nurse for 16 years before starting volunteering with Save the Children to help with the Ebola crisis.

A general view of a High Level Isolation Unit at the Royal Free hospital

She flew out to Freetown in November with four other Scottish volunteers and a contingent of 30 NHS staff from around the UK as part of a government-funded project.

During her time in Sierra Leone's “red zone”, she wrote a diary about her experiences for the Scotsman newspaper, chronicling her journey from the Blantyre Health Centre in South Lanarkshire to Ebola's front line.

She said she felt well-protected in the “alien-type suit” of protective clothing health workers wear in 30C heat, joking that they would “certainly be beneficial on a cold winter's night in Scotland”.

In her third week, Mrs Cafferkey described the harrowing experience of watching a woman die from Ebola as her young son watched through the window, made an orphan by the virus that claimed both parents and his sister.

“The sad thing is that this is a regular occurrence and we see and hear of whole families being wiped out by this awful disease,” she wrote.

Despite the sorrow, she said seeing survivors be discharged back into the outside world with celebratory singing and dancing made the work worthwhile.

“It helps us remember the good work we are doing and the reason we are all here,” she wrote.

Save the Children said it may never be possible to be completely sure how Mrs Cafferkey was infected.

The statement from the charity said: “The work of these brave health workers is never risk-free, but we are committed to doing everything possible to learn what happened and, if necessary, to make changes to our protocols and practice.

"Staff safety is our number one priority and our thoughts are with Pauline and her family at this very difficult time.”

Additional reporting by PA