UK
11/03/2015 12:52 GMT | Updated 11/03/2015 15:59 GMT

Ebola Diagnosis For British Military Healthcare Worker In Sierra Leone

A UK military healthcare worker in Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola. Public Health England (PHE) said the worker is being assessed by medical experts.

A PHE spokesman said: "A clinical decision on whether the individual will be medically evacuated to the UK for treatment will be taken in due course. An investigation into how the military worker was exposed to the virus is currently under way and tracing of individuals in recent contact with the diagnosed worker is being undertaken. Any individuals identified as having had close contact will be assessed and a clinical decision made regarding bringing them to the UK."

The PHE spokesman added: "The UK has robust, well-developed and well-tested systems for managing Ebola and the overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low. No further information is being given at this time."

British nurses Pauline Cafferkey and Will Pooley both survived the highly-contagious disease after contracting it while treating patients in Sierra Leone last year. More than 9,500 people have died from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa but no British nationals are among the dead.

Both Pooley and Cafferkey were treated in a specialist isolation unit at London's Royal Free Hospital (RFH) and both made a full recovery. Pooley, from Eyke in Suffolk, tested positive for the virus while in Sierra Leone last August and was flown back to the UK by the RAF. He has since returned to Sierra Leone to resume his work.

Cafferkey, from Cambuslang, in South Lanarkshire, had volunteered with Save The Children at a treatment centre in Kerry Town in Sierra Leone. She was not diagnosed with Ebola until after she returned to the UK in December. She spent more than three weeks being treated at the RFH where she was critically ill for a time, but was released at the end of January. Five other Britons have been tested for the virus but the results have come back negative.

Among them were two other military healthcare workers, who were discharged from the hospital last month after being kept under observation following needle-stick injuries while treating sufferers in Sierra Leone.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "As Public Health England has confirmed, a UK military healthcare worker has tested positive for Ebola. They are currently being treated in the Kerry Town Treatment Unit. A clinical decision on whether the individual will be medically evacuated to the UK for treatment will be taken in due course.

"Their next of kin have been informed and we will not be providing any further details at the current time. Despite there being stringent procedures and controls in place to safeguard UK service personnel, there is always a level of risk in deployments on operations of this type".