A specially adapted Royal Air Force cargo plane picked up the male
healthcare worker in Sierra Leone on Sunday after British Foreign
Secretary Philip Hammond authorized his repatriation for treatment.
The Department of Health said the patient - whose identity has not
been disclosed - was "not currently seriously unwell". The man will
be transported to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in
The hemorrhagic fever has killed at least 1,427 people, mostly in
Sierra Leone, Liberia and neighboring Guinea, the deadliest outbreak
of the disease to date. The disease also has a toehold in Nigeria,
where it has killed five people.
In Democratic Republic of Congo, Health Minister Felix Kabange Numbi
said an Ebola outbreak had been confirmed in the remote northern
Equateur province - 1,200 km (750 miles) from the capital Kinshasa -
but it was a different strain of the virus from the West African
There have been six outbreaks of Ebola in Democratic Republic of
Congo since the disease was discovered there in 1976, with a total
of more than 760 deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that more than 225
health workers have fallen ill and nearly 130 have lost their lives
to Ebola since the West African outbreak was detected in the jungles
of southeast Guinea in March.
The Boeing C-17 plane carrying the British medic left the Sierra
Leonean capital Freetown at around 1250 GMT. Television footage
showed the plane arriving at RAF Northolt air base in Britain after
a flight of just over 7 hours. An ambulance backed up to the plane
to receive the patient.
Britain's Deputy Chief Medical Officer John Watson said final
approval for the evacuation was given by a team of physicians who
had traveled to Freetown on the plane.
“We understand that this patient, during the course of the work that
he was carrying out, was exposed about a week ago and became unwell
two or three days ago," Watson told Sky News.
The Royal Free Hospital has Britain's only high-level isolation unit
for treatment of infectious diseases, as well as a team of specially
Paul Cosford, director for health protection at state body Public
Health England, said strict protective measures were being taken to
minimize the risk of transmission when transporting and treating the
individual in Britain.
Two U.S. doctors, who contracted Ebola in Liberia and were evacuated
to the United States, were discharged from hospital last week after
receiving treatment with an experimental drug, ZMapp. It was not
clear what role it played in their recovery.
Its U.S.-based manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, has said
limited supplies of the drug have already been exhausted after it
was used to treat three African doctors in Liberia.
FIRST WHO WORKER TAKEN ILL
In Democratic Republic of Congo, in central Africa, dozens of people
have died in Equateur from a mysterious disease in recent weeks, but
the WHO said on Thursday it was believed to be a kind of hemorrhagic
However, Minister Kabange Numbi said that two out of eight cases
tested had come back positive for Ebola and he said the region
around the town of Djera would be quarantined. He said 13 people had
died from the disease, five of them healthcare workers, and some 80
others were being monitored.
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"This epidemic has absolutely no link with what is happening in West
Africa," the minister told a news conference.
Numbi said that one of the two cases that tested positive was for
the Sudanese strain of the disease, while the other was a mixture
between the Sudanese and the Zaire strain - the most lethal variety.
The outbreak in West Africa is the Zaire strain.
A WHO spokesman said it could not confirm the results of the tests,
which were conducted by Congolese authorities.
Separately, the WHO said a healthcare worker it had deployed to
Sierra Leone had tested positive for Ebola. It was the first time
someone working under the aegis of the WHO has been infected, it
said in a statement.
A government source in Sierra Leone, who asked not to be identified,
said the worker was a Senegalese expert deployed by the WHO in the
eastern town of Kailahun.
The WHO has sent in nearly 400 people from its own staff and partner
organizations since the outbreak was detected in March.
It is the first outbreak of the disease in West Africa and the worst
since it was discovered in 1976 in the jungles of Democratic
Republic of Congo, then known as Zaire.
The WHO is due to release next week a draft strategy to combat the
disease in West Africa. The U.N. agency has faced criticism that it
moved too slowly to contain the outbreak.
With the healthcare systems of Sierra Leone and Liberia already
fragile following a decade of civil war in the 1990s, and still
lacking staff, the WHO said a surge in foreign healthcare workers
The WHO has warned that a decision by many transport companies to
suspend services to Ebola-hit countries was leading to shortages of
basic goods and foodstuffs. The U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID) airlifted more than 16 tons of medical equipment
and emergency supplies to the Liberian capital Monrovia on Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Umaru Fofana in Freetown, James Harding in
Monrovia and Daniel Flynn in Dakar; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing
by Robin Pomeroy)
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