Ebola outbreak: Nurse William Pooley, the first Briton to contract Ebola in outbreak, is described as a hero by his colleagues

Mr Pooley was flown to the UK in a specially-adapted RAF jet on Sunday

Senior Reporter

The British nurse struck down by the deadly Ebola virus is an “extraordinary guy” who should be treated as a hero for the work he has done in Africa, his colleagues said on Sunday.

William Pooley, 29, from Eyke in Suffolk, is currently receiving emergency treatment at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north London. He was evacuated from Sierra Leone, where he had been volunteering at Kenema Government Hospital treating victims of the incurable virus, by a specially-adapted RAF jet on Sunday.

Gabriel Madiye, who runs the Shepherd’s Hospice in Freetown where Mr Pooley had worked previously, said the Briton had been “quite aware of the risks involved” in treating Ebola patients but had been determined to help.

Dr Oliver Johnson, a friend of Mr Pooley’s who has been treating patients in Freetown, described him as an “extraordinary guy” who was “hugely dedicated” to the task of helping his patients.

“I knew Will before he first came out to Sierra Leone, we discussed his plans for coming out. When the Ebola outbreak really hit, he moved up to Kenema, right to the epicentre of the outbreak to try and help,” he told the BBC.

“Will’s a pretty extraordinary guy. Even for those of us working with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, he stood out as being particularly brave and really from the beginning he was determined to help in any way he could, not just help patients but I think he had enormous loyalty towards the other staff at Kenema.”

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The Ebola virus was identified in Guinea in March and has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. It has killed almost 1,500 people, according to official estimates, and carries a 90 per cent fatality rate.

Mr Pooley, the first Briton confirmed to have contracted the virus, moved to Africa to help treat locals suffering from Aids but had in recent months turned his attention to Ebola patients. In a recent interview with a blogger from the website FreetownFashpack, he said: “It’s the easiest situation in the world to make a difference. I’m not particularly experienced or skilled, but I can do the job and I am actually helping.”

On Sunday, his family issued a statement in which they thanked the RAF and British authorities for bringing him safely back home – and the “excellent care” provided by the doctors fighting to save his life. “We would like to express our thanks to all involved in bringing our son back to the UK,” they said. “We have been astounded by the speed and way which the various international and UK government agencies have worked together to get Will home.

“Will is receiving excellent care at the Royal Free Hospital and we could not ask for him to be in a better place. We would like to thank all our family and friends for their best wishes and ask everyone to remember those in other parts of the world suffering with Ebola who do not have access to the same healthcare facilities as Will.”

Chris Mutten, a councillor on Eyke Parish Council where Mr Pooley’s mother Jackie works as a clerk, said the local community was desperately hoping he will manage to fight off the disease. “He is a good lad, he has been doing a lot of good work,” he said. “His family are very proud of him, he has been all over the world and his work is all voluntary. He trained as a nurse and he is doing his bit for society…he is a very brave man.”

Mr Pooley, who is being treated in the UK’s only infectious disease isolation unit, does not pose a risk to other patients or the general public, doctors said. David Mabey, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said he was “in a plastic tent with its own air supply”. Everything that comes out of the tent is incinerated and it has its own separate entrance, he added.

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