Ebola Patient 'Has Stabilised'
5 January 2015, 17:23
Ebola patient Pauline Cafferkey remains in a critical condition but she stabilised yesterday, Jeremy Hunt has said.
The Health Secretary said the Scottish public health nurse continues to receive the "best possible care'' at the Royal Free Hospital in north London.
He updated MPs in the Commons after speaking to Dr Mike Jacobs, an expert in infectious diseases who is leading the team of doctors and nurses caring for Ms Cafferkey.
Providing a statement on the UK's preparedness to deal with Ebola, Mr Hunt said: "For reasons of patient confidentiality, I cannot go into great detail about Pauline's current medical condition.
"However, I have this morning spoken to Dr Mike Jacobs, an expert in infectious diseases who is leading the team of doctors and nurses caring for Pauline at the Royal Free.
"As has been reported, Pauline's condition has deteriorated to a critical state although she stabilised yesterday and continues to receive the best possible care.''
Mr Hunt went on: "She said in Sierra Leone that she hoped her loved ones would be proud of her.
"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.''
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham echoed Mr Hunt's tribute and good wishes to Ms Cafferkey.
Mr Hunt said the Ebola risk to the public remains low but stressed vigilance was required.
He told MPs: "Both the chief medical officer and the NHS England medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, are satisfied that at this stage we have made sufficient preparations.
"However, they stress that although the risk to the public remains low, we must remain vigilant and be constantly prepared to adjust and improve our processes and protocols as this rapidly changing situation evolves.''
Mr Hunt outlined the timeline of Ms Cafferkey's case and reiterated her temperature was tested seven times before she flew from Heathrow to Glasgow, adding she was cleared to travel.
She later became feverish and followed advice given to her at Heathrow to contact local services and was admitted to an isolation facility at the Brownlee unit in Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow, at 8am on December 29.
After a blood sample tested positive for Ebola, she was transferred in a military plane to the Royal Free Hospital by 8am on December 30.
Mr Hunt said: "Some have asked if it was appropriate for her to be allowed to travel on to Glasgow after she raised concerns about her health at Heathrow.
"The clinical advice on this is clear: you can only contract Ebola by coming into contact with bodily fluids of an infected person - that means blood, vomit, diarrhoea - which becomes a risk when a patient is exhibiting feverish symptoms.
"Because she didn't have a high temperature the clinical judgment was made to allow her to continue her journey home.
"However, we also recognise that medical understanding of the disease is not complete, which is why we had already taken a number of precautionary steps that go further than strictly required by the medical evidence.''
He said these included possible Ebola carriers avoiding crowded places and long journeys on public transport within the 21-day potential incubation period once they arrive back in the UK.
Mr Hunt said the guidance had been strengthened last Monday to ensure anyone from a high-risk group who feels unwell will be reassessed, advice will be immediately sought from an infectious diseases specialist and the individual will be referred for further testing "if appropriate''.
The Conservative frontbencher said screening arrangements at Heathrow had been found to be working well, adding that they will be kept under review.
Mr Hunt said Public Health England had taken precautionary steps to contact passengers on the flight Ms Cafferkey was on from Casablanca, Morocco, to Heathrow, and worked with Moroccan colleagues to trace additional passengers from Freetown in Sierra Leone to Casablanca.
Health Protection Scotland has made contact with all the passengers on the London to Glasgow flight, Mr Hunt said.
He added: "Public Health England has made contact with all UK-based passengers who travelled on the flight from Casablanca to London.''