Scottish Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey 'critically ill' says Royal Free Hospital

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Royal Free Hospital in London yesterday said a nurse suffering with complications after Ebola, Pauline Cafferkey, is "critically ill" after her condition deteriorated. Cafferkey, 39, was readmitted to an isolation unit at the Royal Free on the night of October 8–9 where she had spent time earlier in the year after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone whilst treating patients with the infection.

The hospital said in a statement: "We are sad to announce that Pauline Cafferkey's condition has deteriorated and she is now critically ill. She is being treated for Ebola in the high level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital."

Royal Free Hospital, London; from file.
Image: User:Ryan4314.

Cafferkey visited an out of hours GP clinic on October 5 where her symptoms were not linked to Ebola, before deciding to go to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on October 6 where she was treated at the hospital's infectious diseases unit. Two days later, she was flown by plane to the Royal Free. She is the only person known to suffer with Ebola in this way for a second time, which can remain in the body after an initial recovery.

Jonathan Ball of the University of Nottingham said he'd heard of nothing like this. "I am not aware from the scientific literature of a case where Ebola has been associated with what we can only assume as life-threatening complications after someone has initially recovered, and certainly not so many months after."

Pauline's sister Toni Cafferkey was critical of the wrong diagnosis, telling the Sunday Mail newspaper, "At that point me and my family believe they missed a big opportunity to give the right diagnosis and we feel she was let down. Instead of being taken into hospital, she spent the whole of Tuesday very ill".

A spokesperson for NHS Glasgow and Clyde said Pauline Cafferkey did receive a diagnosis from an out of hours clinic and said: "Her management and the clinical decisions taken based on the symptoms she was displaying at the time were entirely appropriate. All appropriate infection control procedures were carried out as part of this episode of care."

Experts say they do not believe the infection recurring within Pauline Cafferkey is contagious despite monitoring 58 people she has been in contact with. This is said to be a precaution as Ebola can only be spread through body fluids and the infection is not creating the same symptoms associated with a one-off diagnosis of Ebola.