UK

British Ebola Patient William Pooley Discharged, Says 'I'm Very Lucky' (VIDEO)

03/09/2014 13:24 BST | Updated 03/09/2014 14:59 BST

The first Briton known to have caught the deadly Ebola virus in the current outbreak in West Africa said today that he had been "very lucky" as he prepared to be discharged from hospital.

William Pooley, 29, a volunteer nurse, was flown back to the UK for treatment on August 24 after contracting the virus in Sierra Leone.

He was being cared for in a special unit at the Royal Free Hospital in north London but the hospital announced that he was being discharged today.

William Pooley

At a press conference, he praised the "world-class care" he had received at the hospital and thanked the Government and RAF for getting him home so quickly. He said he had feared for his life after being diagnosed with the virus and woken by doctors in protective clothing. "I was worried I was going to die," he said.

The treatment he received was a world away from that being used to treat those with Ebola in west Africa, Pooley said. He was flown back to London and treated at the Hampstead hospital with the experimental ZMapp drug, which was used successfully to treat two Americans who contracted the disease.

He said: "I was very lucky in several ways, firstly in the standard of care that I received, which is a world apart from what people are receiving in west Africa, despite various organisations' best efforts. I had amazing care, which was one difference. The other difference is that my symptoms never progressed to the worst stage of the disease - people I have seen dying horrible deaths. I had some unpleasant symptoms but nothing compared to some of the worst of the disease, especially when people are dying."

He did not even vomit, he said, but had suffered high temperatures and some stomach problems. He told reporters he had no regrets about his decision to go to help people stricken with the deadly virus in west Africa, which is in the middle of a horrific epidemic that has killed more than 2,000 people.

He said: "I have mixed memories, some great memories and some horrible memories - lots of people dying. But also some wonderful memories of people going home, people showing massive spirit and cheer, despite the horrible conditions, the truly heroic people that I worked with, people that went on to get sick, so it is a massive mix of memories."

Pooley is heading home to Eyke in East Anglia, where his parents Robin and Jackie live, to recuperate with friends and family, he said.

Infectious diseases consultant Dr Michael Jacobs, who treated Pooley, said: "The virus is clear from the body and there is no risk to the wider community in any way."

The disease victim told how he had undergone blood tests after feeling ill in Sierra Leone. He said he went to sleep feeling sick and was woken by a World Health Organisation doctor wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) after the tests came back positive.

"He was in PPE so I knew it was bad news," Pooley said. "It was a bit disturbing to get that diagnosis but I had been half expecting it because I had been feeling sick."

He said it was not clear whether the ZMapp drug was responsible for his recovery but he was "hugely grateful" to everyone involved in getting it for him.

The drug is a blend of three laboratory-made antibodies designed to neutralise the virus. Two US doctors given the drug after they were infected with Ebola while working in Liberia subsequently recovered.

But it is not known whether they were saved by the drug or were just lucky. Figures show that 47% of those infected in the current outbreak have survived. At least two other patients treated with ZMapp have died, possibly because help got to them too late.

Pooley's discharge comes as a third American missionary was confirmed as infected with Ebola in Liberia. The doctor was working for SIM USA, the same charity that American missionary Nancy Writebol was working for when she became infected.

Writebol was evacuated to the United States and survived the infection, but this new patient is being treated in Monrovia. Kent Brantly, a US doctor working for Samaritan's Purse, was also evacuated and survived.

It is not confirmed whether US health authorities are set to evacuate the third American.

Food in countries hit by Ebola is getting more expensive and will become scarcer because many farmers won't be able to access fields, the UN food agency warned yesterday.