Ebola outbreak: First British victim discharged from hospital after receiving 'amazing care a world apart from West African sufferers'

William Pooley admitted he felt 'very lucky' compared to those who are treated within the virus-affected region itself

Health Correspondent

The first British person to catch Ebola in the current outbreak said he wished that the West Africans he helped treat could have enjoyed the same “world class” care he received on the NHS, as he was discharged from hospital.

William Pooley, a 29-year-old volunteer nurse who contracted the disease while treating patients in Sierra Leone last month, said he was “very lucky” to have been treated at the Royal Free in north London.

“I had some unpleasant symptoms but nothing compared to some of the worst of the disease, especially when people are dying,” he told a press conference. He did not even vomit, he said, but had suffered high temperatures and some stomach problems.

He said the worst thing had been having to tell his parents that he had Ebola, adding: “No one wants to upset their parents in that way.”

“I was worried I was going to die,” he added. “I was worried about my family, I was scared.”

Asked whether he would return to the region, he joked: “They incinerated my passport so my mum will be pleased to know I cannot go anywhere at the moment.”

Doctors treating Mr Pooley said that the virus was clear from his body, and that he posed “no risk to the wider community in any way”. Mr Pooley said he would return home to Eyke, in Suffolk where his parents live, to rest and recuperate.

At least 1,552 people have now died in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, which has led to national emergencies and the breakdown of healthcare systems in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the worst-hit countries. Mr Pooley is one of many healthcare workers who have contracted the disease, which is spread through contact with bodily fluids.

After being diagnosed following contact with patients at an Ebola clinic in Kenema district, he was flown out of Sierra Leone by the Royal Air Force on August 24, and taken to a special isolation unit at the Royal Free.

He was treated with the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp, which has shown promising results in tests on primates, and had already been used successfully in the treatment of two American Ebola victims.

Mr Pooley said there was no way of knowing whether it was the drug that saved his life or whether he was just fortunate. So far nearly half of the people afflicted with Ebola have survived, even without access to the best care.

ZMapp, which is being fast-tracked for human trials, was used unsuccessfully in the treatment of at least two other Ebola victims, but this may be because it was administered too late.

Mr Pooley said that the situation for victims treated in overrun clinics in West Africa was “a world apart” to the care he received in the UK.

“I’ve got a lot of praise for the level of care I’ve received here, the level of skill, professionalism, compassion and kindness,” he told reporters. “Of course it’s not the same in West Africa. I wish it wasn’t the case. It doesn’t make me feel very good to know they’re sick and suffering in ways I haven’t here.”

Aid organisations combating Ebola in West Africa have voiced growing desperation about the scale of the outbreak, warning that neither they nor the national governments in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have the resources to cope.

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