LONDON (Reuters) - The family of a British volunteer nurse repatriated from Sierra Leone after contracting the deadly Ebola virus said on Monday he was in the best place possible for treatment.
William Pooley, 29, is the first Briton to test positive for the hemorrhagic fever that has killed almost 1,500 people, mostly in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, in the deadliest outbreak of the disease to date.
Pooley was flown home from West Africa on Sunday in a specially adapted Royal Air Force cargo plane and transported to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
“Will is receiving excellent care at the Royal Free Hospital and we could not ask for him to be in a better place,” his family said in a statement, praising the speed at which he was brought home and asking the media to respect their privacy.
“We would like to thank all our family and friends for their best wishes and ask everyone to remember those in other parts of the world suffering with Ebola who do not have access to the same healthcare facilities as Will.”
British health officials say strict protective measures have been taken to minimise the risk of transmission while transporting and treating Pooley.
A spokeswoman from Britain’s Department of Health said British officials were trying to locate supplies of experimental therapies being used to treat Ebola but any decision to use them would be made by the clinicians and the patient.
Pooley’s colleagues praised the bravery of the healthcare worker, who was reported to have been working as a volunteer at a hospice in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown since March before volunteering at an Ebola centre in Kenema five weeks ago.
Gabriel Madiye, executive director of the Shepherd’s Hospice in Freetown, said the nurse was aware of the risks of dealing with Ebola patients but was determined to help as other medical staff had left, fearful of catching the virus.
“We consider him a hero. Somebody who is sacrificing to provide care in very difficult circumstances - when our own health workers are running away,” Madiye told the BBC.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said more than 225 health workers have fallen ill and nearly 130 have lost their lives to Ebola since the West African outbreak was detected in the jungles of southeast Guinea in March.
Two U.S. doctors who contracted Ebola in Liberia and were evacuated to the United States were discharged from hospital last week after receiving treatment with an experimental drug, ZMapp. It was not clear what role it played in their recovery.
Its U.S.-based manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical, has said limited supplies of the drug have already been exhausted after it was used to treat three African doctors in Liberia..
Editing by Gareth Jones