The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 August 2014
A British aid worker, who has not been named, but believed to have been working in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone, is being flown from Freetown, after contracting the Ebola virus. (Photo: RAF plane arrives at Lungi airport earlier today).
The British Department of Health yesterday confirmed that the British national working in Sierra Leone has been diagnosed as Ebola positive.
According to the British Chief Medical Officer, there is no risk to the UK of transmission of the Ebola virus.
This is the first case of a British Ebola victim since the outbreak in West Africa early this year, with the number of cases in Sierra Leone now exceeding one thousand, and almost 400 dead.
The British Department of Health (DoH) says that; “The UK government is closely monitoring the spread of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.”
“On 7 August, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, chaired a further meeting of COBR to discuss Ebola and the current situation in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Ministers and officials from across Whitehall and other relevant organisations attended. Medical advice remains that the risk to the UK is very low. The UK has an established, well-tested system to deal with any known or suspected imported case of this disease,” says the DoH.
In a statement yesterday, the DoH said; “We can confirm that a British national residing in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola virus infection. Medical experts are currently assessing the situation to ensure that appropriate care is delivered, and consular assistance is being provided.”
In order to reassure the British public, Professor John Watson, the British Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said that; “The overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low. We have robust, well-developed and well-tested NHS systems for managing unusual infectious diseases when they arise, supported by a wide range of experts.”
A specially equipped British Royal Air Force plane, landed at Lungi airport in Freetown earlier today, where it collected the British national and is now on its way to the RAF Northolt airport in London.
The patient will then be transported in a special ambulance to the Royal Free Hospital’s Infectious Disease Unit in London, where state of the art medical care will be provided, and with the hope also of British scientists learning more about the virus and how it can be cured. (Photo: British ebola patient being taken into the RAF aircraft today at Lungi airport).
Two weeks ago, the US Embassy in Sierra Leone advised its nationals in the country to leave, sparking accusations from many in the country as ‘abandonment of the people of Sierra Leone in time of greatest need’.
The British Foreign Office is not advising British nationals in Sierra Leone to leave the country, but says that “Britons should think carefully before travelling to Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia.”
“General medical facilities throughout Sierra Leone are currently under severe strain due to the Ebola outbreak, and unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK. Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are overwhelmed.”
But the exodus of foreign nationals from Sierra Leone is now causing stir and discomfort at the seat of government.
Few days ago, the majority leader in the country’s parliament – Ibrahim Bundu accused the international community of turning its back on the people of Sierra Leone in their greatest hour of need.
In a statement at the offices of the World Health Organisation in Freetown, president Koroma expressed dismay at the slow response of the international community in coming to the aid of the people of Sierra Leone to help contain and eradicate the disease.
President Koroma said that his country needs $18 million to help fight Ebola, a message that was also echoed by the head of the UN office in Freetown.
But there was a marked difference in emphasis. The UN is calling for the WHO to be given the funds to develop and deliver a West Africa-wide approach to tackling the virus, whiles president Koroma said he has identified key areas where he believes his government can make a difference.
But confidence in the government’s ability to manage large funds is a problem.
So far president Koroma’s government has received millions of dollars in donations towards his Ebola Fund. But it seems any large scale funding by the international community, will be made directly to the UN and WHO office in Freetown for disbursement.
The airlifting of the sick British national this afternoon, holds much hope for a better understanding of Ebola, as various antidotes are currently being tested in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Last Thursday, two US doctors were discharged from hospital in America, after treatment with the experimental Zmapp drug.
Three Liberian medics are also now believed to be making steady progress, as the world holds its breath for an Ebola cure.