A NURSE who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone is being treated for an “unusual late complication” of the infection.
Pauline Cafferkey has been flown from Glasgow to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, north-west London.
She was transported in a military aircraft under supervision. People who have been in close contact with her are being monitored by Scottish health authorities as a precaution.
A statement from the Royal Free said: “We can confirm that Pauline Cafferkey was transferred from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow to the Royal Free London hospital in the early hours of this morning due to an unusual late complication of her previous infection by the Ebola virus.
“She will now be treated in isolation in the hospital’s high-level isolation unit under nationally agreed guidelines.
“The Ebola virus can only be transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person while they are symptomatic, so the risk to the general public remains low and the NHS has well-established and practised infection control procedures in place.”
Professor Paul Cosford, medical director at Public Health England (PHE), said: “She was transported in a military aircraft under the supervision of experts.
“The Scottish health authorities will be following up on a small number of close contacts of Pauline’s as a precaution.”
Ms Cafferkey was diagnosed with Ebola in December after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone, via London.
She spent almost a month in an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital at the beginning of the year.
A statement from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said Ms Cafferkey was admitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on Tuesday after feeling unwell.
During this time she was treated in the infectious diseases unit, it said.
Director of public health Dr Emilia Crighton said: “Pauline’s condition is a complication of previous infection with the Ebola virus.
“The risk to the public is very low. In line with normal procedures in cases such as this, we have identified a small number of close contacts of Pauline’s that we will be following up as a precaution.”
Ms Cafferkey, who is from South Lanarkshire, won an award at the the Pride of Britain Awards in central London on September 28.
She met the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron the following day at Downing Street, alongside other winners.
The Daily Mirror awards recognise courage and achievement against the odds, with nominees voted by members of the public.
Following her diagnosis, Ms Cafferkey received an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from survivors of the Ebola disease.
She was in a critical condition for two weeks and was discharged from the Royal Free in late January.
She admitted afterwards that she had felt like “giving up” as her condition became critical.
The disease has no known cure and is unpredictable.
The most recent outbreak of Ebola mainly affected three countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
More than 28,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths have been reported by the World Health Organisation.
Ms Cafferkey contracted Ebola while working as a nurse at the Save the Children treatment centre in Kerry Town.
A report from the charity in February said she was probably infected as a result of using a visor to protect her face rather than goggles.
Speaking last month, Ms Cafferkey revealed she has no regrets about her trip to Sierra Leone.
Speaking to ITV’s Lorraine Kelly, she said she would go back to help again.
Of discovering she had the virus, she said: “Outwardly I just tried to be stoical about everything but inside, obviously, I was very frightened.
“I knew it could have gone three ways - it could have been mild, it could have been severe which it was with me, and it could have been death - the other outcome which I came very close to.”
After becoming infected, it emerged that Ms Cafferkey’s temperature had been tested seven times before she flew from Heathrow to Glasgow in December.
She was cleared to travel but later became seriously ill.
She was placed in an isolation unit at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital after becoming feverish, before being transferred by an RAF Hercules plane to London on December 30.
She was then transferred to the specialist isolation unit at the Royal Free.
Dr Ben Neuman, lecturer in virology at the University of Reading, said he thought Ms Cafferkey’s case was only the second one where Ebola is reported to have “reactivated”.
He said: “The newly-discovered twist on this post-Ebola syndrome is that, in some cases, the health problems - often including damage to the eyes and joints - is actually caused by live Ebola virus growing in bodily fluids in some of the less accessible compartments of the body.
“Ebola can persist for weeks or even months in breastmilk, semen and the fluid inside the eyeball.
“This is only the second case of reactivated Ebola, the other being the survivor whose eye changed from blue to green due to an ongoing infection.
“It is difficult to be certain of the outcome at this stage. The likelihood of spreading Ebola depends on how much of the virus is present in the blood. If her body was able to control the virus once, chances are she can do it twice.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “My very best wishes to Pauline Cafferkey for a speedy recovery.”
Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said: “We have been working closely with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Health Protection Scotland to ensure Pauline has received all appropriate treatment and care throughout her stay at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and onward transfer to the Royal Free Hospital.”
She added: “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.”