British citizen with Ebola being evacuated from Sierra Leone
Patient, who was working at treatment centre in Sierra Leone, to be flown on RAF jet to London
The first British citizen confirmed to be infected with the deadly Ebola disease was being evacuated from Sierra Leone on a jet sent by the Royal Air Force, a Sierra Leone official said yesterday.
The World Health Organisation was also considering medical evacuation for an international health worker who has become infected in Sierra Leone, the UN health agency said.
Neither patient was identified by name, and the nationality of the infected WHO employee was not given.
The British patient was working at an Ebola treatment centre in eastern Sierra Leone, the region most affected by the outbreak, said Sidie Yayah Tunis, director of communications for the Sierra Leone health ministry.
The two cases highlight the risks facing health workers on the front lines of the battle against Ebola, which has killed more than 1,400 people across West Africa, according to the latest WHO figures.
"This is the first time someone working under the aegis of WHO has fallen ill with the disease," the WHO said, adding that more than 225 health workers have been infected and nearly 130 have died from Ebola during the current outbreak.
The British patient was transported via ambulance to Sierra Leone's main airport in the town of Lungi, Tunis said.
Britain's Department of Health said the patient was being flown on a specially equipped RAF transport plane to Northolt air base in London.
He will be treated at London's Royal Free Hospital, which has an isolation unit for infectious disease.
The department said in a statement that the patient "is not currently seriously unwell".
"The overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low," said John Watson, England's deputy chief medical officer. "Medical experts are currently assessing the situation in Sierra Leone to ensure that appropriate care is provided".
The World Health Organisation says Sierra Leone has recorded 910 Ebola cases and 392 deaths. The Sierra Leone government says there have been 881 cases and 333 deaths. In Kenema, where the Briton was working, the government has recorded 303 cases.
Two Americans and a Spanish medical worker have already been evacuated from Liberia and given ZMapp, an experimental and unproven treatment for Ebola. The Americans have recovered and been discharged while the Spaniard died.
The drug supply is now exhausted, the US manufacturer has said.
Sierra Leone has passed a law threatening jail time for anyone caught hiding an Ebola patient, a common practice that the World Health Organisation believes has contributed to underestimation of the disease outbreak.
The law, passed on Friday, imposed terms of up to two years for violators, said legislator Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai. It now goes for presidential approval.
He said the measure was necessary to compel residents to cooperate with officials, noting that some residents had resisted steps to combat Ebola and build isolation centres in communities.
THIRD OF FLIGHTS TO EBOLA-HIT NATIONS CANCELLED
Airlines have cancelled more than a third of international flights to three west African countries over fears that an outbreak of the Ebola virus could spread.
Of 590 monthly flights scheduled to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, 216 have been cancelled, OAG, an airline data provider, reported. Although 14 cases of Ebola have been reported in Nigeria, flights to and from the country have not been affected.
African countries are introducing measures to stop Ebola from spreading: on Thursday South Africa banned travellers from Ebola-stricken countries from entering the country; Senegal closed its border with Guinea on Friday as a preventative measure, while Chad has closed its border with Nigeria.
Air Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria's Arik Air, Togo's ASKY Airlines, British Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kenya Airways have together cancelled 76 flights to Guinea, 70 to Liberia and 70 to Sierra Leone.
Kenya Airways' flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone have been stopped after Kenya's ministry of health recommended a temporary ban. These cancellations came despite the World Health Organisation urging airlines to keep routes going.
The UN health agency does not support any ban on international travel or trade. Quarantining the affected countries would damage their economies and increase food shortages, it said. The nations affected by the epidemic, which began in March, were already suffering with shortages of fuel, food and basic supplies, it said.
Brussels Airlines, the only European carrier to serve all three affected countries, said it would continue flights, but Air France crews refused to board flights destined for Ebola-affected countries last week, raising fears that it could scrap routes.
British Airways, which has halted flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, will review matters at the end of the month.