UK nurse survives after contracting Ebola

UK nurse Pauline Cafferkey has said she is “very happy to be alive”, having been discharged from hospital after making a full recovery from Ebola.

Speaking to the BBC in her first broadcast interview, Ms Cafferkey, 39, admitted she had felt like “giving up” as her condition became critical.

She said she was now looking forward to returning to “normal life” and had no current plans to return to West Africa.

She is the second Briton to recover from Ebola during the current outbreak.

Speaking after being discharged from the Royal Free Hospital, in London, Ms Cafferkey, from Cambuslang, in South Lanarkshire, thanked staff who she said had saved her life.

“I am just happy to be alive. I still don’t feel 100%, I feel quite weak, but I’m looking forward to going home,” she added.

‘Definitely frightened’

Ms Cafferkey – who had volunteered with Save the Children at a treatment centre in Kerry Town, in Sierra Leone – was diagnosed with Ebola on 29 December, after returning to Glasgow via London.

Her temperature was tested seven times before she flew from Heathrow to Glasgow and she was cleared to travel, before later falling ill.

She was placed in an isolation unit at Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital after becoming feverish, before being transferred by a RAF Hercules plane to London on 30 December. She was then transferred to the specialist isolation unit at the Royal Free, where she has been treated since.

Speaking to BBC health correspondent Branwen Jeffreys, she said: “My first few days I was very well – I just couldn’t understand all the fuss.”

Ms Cafferkey travelled to Sierra Leone with a group of NHS workers in November last year

However, she said she was “definitely frightened” having witnesses the virus first hand in Sierra Leone.

“Obviously at the back of my mind I had seen what could happen and what could potentially happen to me.”

After three or four days Ms Cafferkey said her condition began to deteriorate, with the hospital announcing she had become critically ill on 4 January.

Asked if there was a point she felt she would not make it, Ms Cafferkey said: “There was a point, which I remember clearly. I do remember saying: ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough’.”

She said she had “no sense of time” in hospital and cannot remember an entire week when the virus took hold.

‘Selflessness and courage’

She said she received letters and cards from people around the world, including people in Sierra Leone and from other nurses who wrote to say she made them proud of their profession.

Asked if she wanted to return to Sierra Leone, she said: “I would have to think seriously about it. I am definitely going to give aid work a break for a while.

“I just want to go back to my normal job, my normal life and I think my family will be happy with that as well.”

Dr Michael Jacobs, from the hospital’s infectious diseases team, said Ms Cafferkey had now completely recovered and was “not infectious in any way”.

He said Ms Cafferkey was treated with blood plasma from an Ebola survivor and an experimental treatment drug closely related drug to ZMapp, which UK nurse Will Pooley was treated with after he contracted Ebola.

She was diagnosed with the deadly disease after returning to Glasgow, and was then transferred to London

Nurses and patients at the Blantyre Health Centre, in South Lanarkshire, where Ms Cafferkey works as a public health nurse, were “overjoyed” to hear the news of her recovery, BBC Scotland reporter Laura Bicker said.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Ms Cafferkey had been “extraordinarily brave” and that it was “great” to see her “looking so well”.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “delighted” the nurse had been discharged from hospital, hailing her “selflessness and courage”.

“She represents the very best of NHS values,” he added.

Chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, said Ms Cafferkey’s recovery was testament to the “hard work and dedication” of the team at the Royal Free who had “worked around the clock to help bring about this happy outcome”.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her recovery was “a tremendous tribute to the work of the NHS staff who have been committed to her care over the last few weeks”.

Chief executive of Save The Children, Justin Forsyth, described Ms Cafferkey as a “dedicated humanitarian” and said he was “delighted” for her and her family.

Save the Children is investigating how Ms Cafferkey contracted the disease.

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