U.K. Nurse With Ebola Improving

By Peter Russell
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Oct. 22, 2015 -- Pauline Cafferkey, the Scottish nurse who got infected with Ebola while working in West Africa, is recovering after the virus caused her to get meningitis, doctors confirmed Thursday.

Dr. Michael Jacobs from the Royal Free Hospital in London has overseen the 39-year-old's treatment since she was evacuated to the United Kingdom last year. He tells reporters that Cafferkey became ill with viral meningitis caused by her original Ebola infection.

On Oct. 8, Cafferkey was readmitted to the hospital's isolation unit and placed inside an isolation tent, allowing medical staff to treat her without risk to themselves and the public. Last week, her condition was described as critical, but she's doing better now.

"I am really pleased that Pauline has made a significant improvement," Jacobs says. "She is inside the tent, she is still in bed, but she is talking freely within the tent. She has got a long recovery ahead of her, and she will be with us for quite a while."

After careful consideration, he says, Cafferkey decided to take an experimental antiviral drug known as GS-5734.

"I am hopeful Pauline will make a full recovery -- maybe it will be with the help of this antiviral drug, maybe it will be down to her own immune system," Jacobs says. "Over time I anticipate that the virus will be eradicated from her completely."

Dr. Nathalie MacDermott, a clinical research fellow at the Imperial College London, called it an "unprecedented situation" when Cafferkey was readmitted to the hospital earlier this month. But, she said, "the change in her condition does not imply any increased risk to the general public ... the risk to the general public who may have had contact prior to her deterioration remains extremely low."

Cafferkey got the disease while working for the international charity Save the Children at a treatment center in Kerry Town, Sierra Leone. She became ill after returning to the U.K., and was first admitted to the high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free in December 2014. She was discharged in January this year after making a recovery.

She was the second Briton to recover from Ebola during the outbreak. Volunteer nurse William Pooley was treated in the same special unit after also being infected while working in Sierra Leone.

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SOURCE: Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

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