Ebola crisis: Woman in Australia being tested for deadly virus

Australian nurse developed a 'low grade' fever after returning from Sierra Leone

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A woman in Australia is being tested for Ebola after developing a fever since returning home from Sierra Leone.

Health officials confirmed the 57-year-old woman developed a “low grade” fever on Thursday, and was taken to Cairns hospital to be assessed by specialists.

The woman had been working as a nurse in Sierra Leone for a month and was exposed to people with the virus. She has been identified by a colleague as Sue-Ellen Kovack, who was working with the Red Cross.

Queensland’s chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said the woman returned to Australia over the weekend, and arrived at her home in Cairns on Tuesday.


“She had been in quarantine since then, following the protocol that we put in place nationally,” Dr Young said.

“This morning she rang up as part of that protocol after she had developed a low grade fever of 37.6 degrees Celsius,” she added.

The nurse arrived at the hospital’s emergency department at 1pm local time on Thursday and was assessed by infectious disease specialists. Her blood samples are currently being taken to Brisbane to be tested for Ebola, Dr Young said.

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Dr Young said the nurse has “done everything appropriately,” explaining that she was “perfectly well” when arriving in Australia, displaying no symptoms or fever, adding that she has “not been out in the community in Cairns, she has been at home testing herself”.

The nurse’s test results are expected in the coming hours.

The case in Cairns comes as Australian officials revealed that quarantine officers have tested and cleared six people suspected of having Ebola at airports.

Prime Minister Tony Abbot said on Thursday that it is “not impossible” that Ebola would travel to the country. “What we’re doing is carefully monitoring everyone who’s coming into this country who’s been to West Africa,” he said.

A total of 651 people have been interviewed at Australian airports between August and October, the Australian Health department revealed, with six were held and later cleared.

“In every state, public hospitals have been prepared to deal with Ebola cases should we get any.

“We’ve spent $80m on top of the $40m we give every year to the World Health Organisation specifically on Ebola precautions. We’re constantly monitoring and reviewing the situation to see what more can be done,” Mr Abbot told 3AW.