UK Ebola patient asks for experimental treatment

Pauline Cafferkey is wheeled in a quarantine tent trolley onto a Hercules Transport plane at Glasgow Airport on December 30, 2014.

Story highlights

  • A health care worker diagnosed with the virus is asking for experimental drug therapy
  • She is the first to be diagnosed with Ebola in the UK
  • She fell ill after returning from West Africa as a medical volunteer
  • A woman in the Scottish Highlands has tested negative for Ebola, government says

London (CNN)A Scottish woman diagnosed with Ebola is now asking for experimental treatment of the virus.

Pauline Cafferkey, 39, of Glasgow, is sitting up in her hospital bed, reading and talking, according to a statement from the Royal Free Hospital in London. "However, the next few days will be crucial," said Dr. Michael Jacobs, an infectious diseases consultant. "The disease has a variable course and we will know much more in a week's time."
Cafferkey is the first person to be diagnosed with the virus on UK soil. British media outlets have said she is a public health nurse who was part of a 30-strong team of medical volunteers deployed to Sierra Leone in West Africa by the UK government last month in a joint endeavor with Save the Children.
    She traveled via Casablanca, Morocco, and London Heathrow Airport before arriving at Glasgow Airport on a British Airways flight late Sunday, the health agency NHS Scotland said. After feeling unwell, she sought medical attention and was reportedly transferred to London on a military aircraft fitted with an isolation pod.
    The Royal Free Hospital is equipped with a high-level isolation unit, with access restricted to specially trained medical staff. A specially designed tent, with controlled ventilation, is set up over the patient's bed.
    A British volunteer nurse, William Pooley, was successfully treated in the unit following his return home from Sierra Leone in August after being diagnosed with Ebola.
    'Extremely low' risk
    UK authorities are working to trace those who have come into contact with Cafferkey.
    The Scottish government has set up a special number for people to call if they traveled on the same London Heathrow-to-Glasgow flight as Cafferkey.
    British Airways said it was working closely with health authorities in England and Scotland and would help with any information needed.
    "The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our top priority and the risk to people on board that individual flight is extremely low," the airline said.
    Ebola patients become infectious only after they display symptoms, such as fever and vomiting. The deadly virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids.
    A Downing Street spokesman told CNN that British Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had discussed the procedures in place to handle such a case.
    "They agreed that both governments would remain in close touch and ensure everything possible was done to support the patient and, although the risk to the general population remained low, all measures would be taken to protect public health."
    Scottish woman tests negative
    Meanwhile, a woman in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland who'd fallen ill tested negative for Ebola, the Scottish government said Tuesday.
    A spokesman for the government said the woman had been in West Africa recently, though she had no direct contact with anyone with Ebola.
    "A patient at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary has tested negative for Ebola," a Tuesday news release said. "The individual was transferred to the hospital by the Scottish Ambulance Service yesterday after falling ill while visiting Torridon in the Scottish Highlands."
    According to UK government guidelines, humanitarian workers returning from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa who've been at high risk of exposure are expected to monitor their own health for 21 days after they get home.
    As of December 24, at least 7,693 people had died in the current Ebola outbreak, centered in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the World Health Organization said. There have been at least 19,695 cases.