Pauline Cafferkey, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the UK is again back in hospital “due to an unusual late complication of her previous infection by the Ebola virus.” Dr Ben Neuman, a virologist from the University of Reading is optimistic regarding Ms Cafferkey beating the disease.
Ms Cafferkey, a nurse working as a volunteer in Sierra Leone for Save the Children was diagnosed with the virus after returning back to Glasgow. Transferred at the isolation unit of the Royal Free Hospital in London – the same hospital where she was transferred to on Friday – she was declared completely free of the illness and discharged. At the time, she said, “I’m very happy to be alive.”
That sense of gratitude seems to be the norm for every Ebola survivor. Another volunteer, Nancy Writebol who contracted the virus while working in Monrovia, Liberia said she had a “respectful fear” of the virus.
The trouble with Ebola is the fact that not much is known about it. Survivor Dr Craig spencer wrote in an article he published in the New England Journal of Medecine that “we cannot explain exactly what it does to our bodies, nor tell patients who survive it how it may affect them in the future.” To that effect, men who contracted the virus were advised to wear condoms indefinitely until more is known. There are those who say however that with the 13000 Ebola survivors in West Africa, any risk would have been known by now.
As Dr Neumann said, “she’s beaten the virus once so she can probably beat it again.” Ms Cafferkey is certainly not the first person to have suffered a return of the virus. Two months after being discharged, Dr Ian Crozier was returning to hospital again when he started experiencing problems with his vision. But he received anti-viral drugs and he is now doing well.
As doctors tonight said she was in a “critical condition”, one hopes that she will be a real Ebola survivor, beating once and for all the disease which claimed about 11000 in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.