A Scottish nurse who almost died from Ebola has suffered a new attack of the killer virus 24 hours after visiting a school.
Parents reacted with horror after news of Pauline Cafferkey’s condition was revealed.
Miss Cafferkey, 39, was in a serious condition after being airlifted by the RAF in the early hours to an isolation unit in London.
Back in hospital: Pauline Cafferkey, 39, (left last week) is ill with Ebola again and has been flown from Glasgow back to the Royal Free Hospital, where she spent a month in isolation last December (right after first recovery)
Fears: The nurse spoke to children at Mossneuk Primary School in East Kilbride on Monday, and the children were all sent home with letters today to explain the situation. Pictured: Pupils being picked up by parents
Health officials will monitor her family and friends over the next few days in case they begin to show symptoms.
The headteacher of Mossneuk Primary School in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, was forced to send out letters to the families of primary four to seven pupils after the nurse was taken ill.
NHS staff yesterday went to the school, where Miss Cafferkey spoke to children on Monday, to explain the situation.
The Ebola victim, who lives in Cambuslang, also met the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron last week at a Downing Street reception for winners of the Pride of Britain award.
NHS bosses insisted last night that the risk of her infecting others with Ebola was low.
Downing Street is believed to have been told Mrs Cameron will not require testing, although one expert said she may be asked to fill out a questionnaire about any symptoms and will be advised to raise concerns if she feels ill.
Ebola is spread through blood and bodily fluids. The virus, which has killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa, can ‘reactivate’ after hiding in parts of the body with a low immune response.
Protection: Police closed roads between RAF Northolt and the Royal Free in Hampstead as they rushed her to the isolation unit. Iy was the same journey she took after falling ill after getting Ebola in Sierra Leone
Transfer: The nurse (circled) was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to the UK and was seen walking from an ambulance at Glasgow Airport as she was moved by military aircraft to London on December 30 last year
Critical: The nurse, who had been volunteering in Africa, had been in a deteriorating condition but survived thanks to a mix of anti-virals and blood plasma from a survivor
Miss Cafferkey is one of three British medical volunteers who became seriously ill after treating ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
Along with aid worker William Pooley, 30, from Suffolk, and Army Reserve nurse Anna Cross, 26, from Cambridge, she was believed to have made a full recovery after spending almost a month fighting for her life at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
‘SNEAKY’ EBOLA FINDS PLACES TO HIDE EVEN IF IT IS ALMOST BEATEN
Ebola will find places in the body to survive if the victim recovers
The Ebola virus can linger in bodily tissues even after the person appears to have made a full recovery, according to experts.
Parts of the body such as the eye, central nervous system and testes can harbour the virus, which can also behave in an unpredictable way.
Professor John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘The Ebola virus can occasionally persist for some months in certain tissues within survivors.
‘The risk of transmission from these individuals appears to be very low. However, with so many survivors in West Africa now, there is a risk that further outbreaks can be triggered, which is why authorities have to remain very vigilant.’
Dr Ben Neuman, a virologist at the University of Reading, told BBC Radio Scotland he believes the outlook for Pauline Cafferkey is good.
He told the Good Morning Scotland programme: ‘The nice news here is that she’s beaten the virus once so she can probably beat it again.
‘The odds are that she actually has inherited a lucky set of genes and these are probably what protected her the first time and probably what will keep her safe the second time, regardless of any treatment. I think the outlook’s good.’
He said scientists are still learning about the virus and its effects.
‘It seems that some of the ongoing health problems with people’s eys, joints and hair loss are actually caused not by the after-effects of Ebola, but by the small amounts of Ebola which is still residing somewhere in the body,’ he said.
‘It’s surprising and we’re just learning how to deal with this.’
Dr Neuman said the aim of any treatment for Ms Cafferkey would be to try to eliminate any last traces of the virus.
He told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘The good news is that it’s probably not going to be infectious. The virus, once it is removed from the blood once, tends to retreat into the hard-to-access compartments of the body.
‘It will hide in places like the back of your eye, in breastmilk, places like that. But we also have some treatments now that are actually shown to work and reduce complications from Ebola and that’s due to brave people like Nurse Cafferkey’.
She is only the second recorded person to be treated for ebola twice.
The part-time district nurse at Blantyre Health Centre was in good health when she last worked there last Thursday, although she had previously complained of suffering joint pain and hair loss. She took a day off on Monday to visit pupils at Mossneuk Primary, who had raised £500 for the fight against ebola.
But she fell ill hours afterwards and was taken by ambulance to Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital on Tuesday.
The 39-year-old’s condition deteriorated and in the early hours of yesterday she was flown to the Royal Free Hospital.
She spent last night in an isolation unit at the hospital, which issued a update at midday yesterday that Miss Cafferkey was in a ‘serious’ condition.
Hugh Pennington, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said: ‘We are in uncharted territory. Following up cases of ebola is very difficult, we have problems with that even in the UK. We are having to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than detailed studies.’
Dr Ben Neuman, a lecturer in virology at the University of Reading, said: ‘This is the second case of ebola reactivating that has been recorded. What we have here is very different to what we have seen in the past.
‘We know one in four recovered ebola victims has vision difficulties and four in five suffer joint pain. It might be that ebola coming back happens in one in 10,000 survivors but sadly we have never had that many survivors to see it happen.’
The only other person known to have ebola twice is US doctor Ian Crozier, whose eye changed colour from blue to green following a secondary infection.
Miss Cafferkey is believed to have post-ebola syndrome, which causes debilitating symptoms such as muscle weakness.
Dr Neuman said the chances of it being passed on to others were slim, but added: ‘It has never happened, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Eventually, ideally, you would want to see anybody coming into contact with an ebola survivor, like pupils at Mossneuk School, being vaccinated for ebola. It is not the kind of virus you mess around with.’
Parents at the school said they were seriously concerned by the news, not having been told Miss Cafferkey was coming to meet their children. It was claimed she had come into close contact with eight to 12-year-olds, even letting them try on an ebola suit – which the local authority refused to confirm.
David Cherry, father of seven-year-old twin boys who attended the assembly, said: ‘We were not aware that Pauline Cafferkey was coming to the school. It was only when I picked up the kids in Monday that they told me the lady with ebola was in to speak to them.
‘It’s an extremely big deal and we feel that parents should have been told beforehand. It’s our kids and we’re concerned.’
His wife Denise said: ‘It’s the nature of the disease and how small the children are. You’re not even allowed to send your kids to school with chicken pox.’
Gail Wallace, a 40-year-old receptionist whose child was not in the assembly, said yesterday: ‘I think they should close the school and have a deep clean. I’ve been worried all day. That’s just what mums do, they worry. I would have preferred the kids not to have been in today.’
Jim Gilhooly, executive director of education resources at South Lanarkshire Council, said: ‘We have been assured Miss Cafferkey’s illness cannot be spread through ordinary social contact and we have reassured parents and carers of this. NHS Lanarkshire staff have attended the school today to reassure anyone with concerns.’
Miss Cafferkey’s parents, Michael and Jean, were too upset to comment from their home in Crossgates, Fife, last night.
Their daughter first contracted the virus last December, after volunteering at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone.
Gala: Pauline Cafferkey (circled left) was in Downing Street to meet Samantha Cameron (circled far right) 10 days ago after being given a Pride of Britain award. Mrs Cameron is said to not be at risk
Ten days ago: Nurse Pauline Cafferkey (pictured circled centre) accepted a Pride of Britain award less than a fortnight ago from Lenny Henry (far left), Suranne Jones (centre left) and Carol Vorderman and (far right)
A subsequent investigation by Save the Children concluded she may have got it from wearing a visor rather than protective goggles while treating patients.
It later emerged she had been tested seven times for the killer virus after landing at Heathrow but was cleared to fly on to Scotland.
She then fell ill and was flown by the RAF to an isolation unit at the Royal Free, where she could only speak to her family through an intercom. After almost a month, and treatment with experimental drug ZMapp, she recovered.
The nurse faced criticism in some quarters for putting fellow plane passengers at risk of ebola, with the closest given testing kits for a 20-day danger period after the flight.
But she faced no sanctions following an investigation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council over suspicions she had hidden how unwell she was and returned to work in March.
Other victims: Anna Cross, 25, left, recovered from the disease after being treated with an experimental drug while Will Pooley, right, from Suffolk, last year became the first Briton to contract Ebola and also survived
Emergency: Pauline landed at a nearby RAF base and then was taken to the Royal Free in London for special care this morning
Speaking at the Pride of Britain Awards, Miss Cafferkey said she had felt like ‘giving up’ as her condition became critical, adding: ‘Outwardly I just tried to be stoical about everything but inside, obviously, I was very frightened.’
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday tweeted: ‘My very best wishes to Pauline Cafferkey for a speedy recovery.’
Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said: ‘We are aware Pauline Cafferkey has been transferred from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to the Royal Free Hospital in London as a result of becoming unwell from a late complication of her illness.
‘Pauline is now being cared for in the best place possible, with specialists who have the most experience of looking after patients who have previously recovered from the ebola virus.
‘This is not a new case of ebola and is a complication of her previous illness. The risk to the public remains extremely low and all appropriate infection control measures are in place.’
David Cromie, public health consultant at NHS Lanarkshire said: ‘The ebola virus can only be transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person while they are symptomatic.
‘Pauline was well while at work and there is no wider public health risk.’
WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE FOR EBOLA AND WHAT HAPPENS TO THE PATIENTS WHO FALL ILL WITH THE KILLER DISEASE?
There are currently no specific drugs to cure Ebola, nor any approved vaccines to prevent the disease.
Two experimental vaccines are currently being trialled on human volunteers in the UK, US, Mali and Uganda.
The Royal Free Hospital (right) is the only High Level Isolation Unit in the UK to house two high-security containment beds.
They are located inside isolation ‘bubbles’ – specially-designed tents with controlled ventilation allowing medics to provide clinical care while containing the infection.
Three other hospitals – The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Victoria Infirmary and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals – are designated centres for escalation if there was an epidemic.
There are around 50 other designated Ebola beds at these three centres.
Medics will work to re hydrate patients using oral and intravenous fluids.
Specific symptoms such as diarrohea and fever will be treated directly, to try and improve chances of surviving.
William Pooley, the British nurse who survived Ebola, was treated with the experimental drug ZMapp.
It is a blend of three laboratory-made antibodies designed to neutralise the virus.
Two US aid workers, Dr Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were also given the drug after they were infected with the virus while working in Liberia. They too, subsequently recovered.
But experts do not know if those given the drug were saved by it, or whether luck played a part.
Around 45 per cent of those infected in the current outbreak have survived without treatment.
ZMapp, developed by US biotech company Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc, is manufactured in the leaves of genetically modified tobacco plants.
The process could yield 20 to 40 doses a month.
Evidence suggests that effective treatment with ZMapp requires three doses of 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.