An aircraft believed to be carrying a British military healthcare worker who tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone has landed in the UK.
The RAF aircraft, which has also brought back two of the female worker’s colleagues for further monitoring, touched down at RAF Northolt in west London just before 2pm yesterday.
The infected worker was transported to the Royal Free Hospital (RFH) in Hampstead, north west London, in an ambulance with a police guard. The hospital has a special high-level isolation unit.
Public Health England (PHE) announced on Wednesday that the worker had tested positive for Ebola after being exposed to the virus while treating patients in Sierra Leone and a Boeing C-17 plane was sent to collect her last night.
Up to 700 British military personnel are currently deployed in the West African country to aid the Ebola effort.
A total of four military healthcare workers are known to have come into contact with the infected worker and the two of them who have returned home will now be assessed at the RFH as a precautionary measure.
Two others remain in Sierra Leone and will be kept under observation there while a decision is made about whether to bring them to the UK.
Nurses Pauline Cafferkey and Will Pooley – the only other Britons to have tested positive for the disease – were also treated at the RFH and both subsequently made full recoveries.
A PHE spokeswoman said rapid tracing was undertaken in Sierra Leone to identify anyone who had been in recent close contact with the worker as soon as she was known to be infected.
“This contact tracing identified four military healthcare workers requiring further assessment,” she said.
“On the same precautionary basis that has been adhered to previously, two healthcare workers are returning on the same military plane today and will be assessed at the Royal Free Hospital.
“They will then be monitored for any symptoms for the remainder of their incubation period, in line with standard procedures.
“The two other individuals are currently being assessed in Sierra Leone, to inform a clinical decision regarding bringing them to the UK.”
None of them are displaying symptoms of the disease, which has killed more than 9,960 people in West Africa, with Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia the worst affected countries.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the two military personnel who remain in Sierra Leone for monitoring “may well come back to the UK shortly”.
He told BBC News: “I think that as well as thinking about them and their families, this is also a time to remember how lucky we are to have a fantastic NHS and to live in a country where we know that we can bring people back and be confident that they will get the best healthcare available anywhere in the world and I think we’re incredibly grateful to the doctors and nurses at the Royal Free, in Newcastle, in Liverpool and in Sheffield and the other hospitals that are ready and available to deal with difficult cases like this.”
Complacent behaviour has led to a spike in confirmed Ebola cases over the past week in four districts of Sierra Leone, officials said.
Alfred Palo Conteh, chief of the National Ebola Response Centre, said new measures must now be put in place to contain the surges.
The country’s ministry of health and sanitation reported 15 cases on Wednesday, along with 16 on both Monday and Tuesday.
Mr Palo Conteh said new Ebola hotspots have emerged.