LONDON (AA) – The first British man to contract Ebola was released Wednesday from the London hospital where he was being treated after being cleared by doctors to return to the outside world.
Dr. Michael Jacobs, a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said William Pooley was no longer infectious.
“The virus is cleared from the body and there is no risk to the wider community in any way,” Jacobs said.
Pooley, a 29-year-old volunteer nurse, had gone in March to the west African country of Sierra Leone, which has suffered outbreaks of the disease along with neighboring Guinea and Liberia, to help care for those suffering from Ebola. But he had to be flown out by the Royal Air Force last month after contracting the disease himself.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had authorized the repatriation in a plane adapted to bring home an infected person.
After starting work in the Shepherd’s Hospice in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, Pooley told reporters at a press conference Wednesday in London that he had transferred to a government hospital to work with victims only to suddenly start feeling sick.
He took a blood test.
“I was woken early that evening by one of the WHO doctors and immediately I knew it was bad news. It’s a bit disturbing to get that diagnosis,” Pooley said.
“I was worried that I was going to die… I was worried about my family and I was scared.”
On being flown back to the UK, he was treated in a specialized unit that deals with infectious diseases. There, he received the experimental drug ZMapp — an infusion of antibodies previously used on only six other patients.
“I was very lucky in several ways; firstly in the standard of care I received, which is a world apart from what people are receiving in West Africa at the moment,” Pooley said. “And my symptoms never progressed to the worst stage of the disease.”
“I’ve seen people dying horrible deaths,” he said. “I had some unpleasant symptoms, but nothing compared to the worst of the disease.”
Pooley is set to return to his family home in eastern England, but he joked that he wouldn’t be traveling anytime soon.
“They incinerated my passport, so my mum will be pleased to know I can’t go anywhere.”
Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has claimed 1,552 lives in West Africa in recent months, mostly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
The tropical fever, which first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can be transmitted to humans from wild animals.
It also reportedly spreads through contact with the body fluids of infected persons or of those who have died of the disease.
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