A British military healthcare worker has been evacuated from Sierra Leone after being accidentally jabbed with a needle while treating Ebola patients. The worker has returned to England for monitoring, according to Public Health England (PHE). The woman was flown back to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Friday night and then transferred to an isolation ward at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, northwest London. The worker’s next of kin has been informed, according to PHE. It is understood the person, whose identity has not been released, has probably been exposed to the virus but has not been diagnosed with Ebola and is not displaying symptoms.
The official announcement said the worker suffered a “needle-stick injury”, which involves piercing of the skin. The injuries typically involved needle points but may also be done by other sharp objects, and are considered an occupational health hazard by medical workers. PHE director for health protection Professor Paul Cosford said: “Our thoughts are with this person, who has been courageous in helping those affected in West Africa, and in preventing the wider spread of Ebola.
“We have strict, well-tested protocols in place for this eventuality and we are confident that all appropriate actions have been taken to support the healthcare worker concerned and to protect the health of other people.” The medical evacuation was done as a precautionary measure after the worker was pricked by a needle at the Kerry Town clinic in the West African nation. There are currently around 600 British military personnel working in Sierra Leone, with Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus stationed in the area.
The clinic was built on the outskirts of the capital Freetown to help treat patients infected by the virus, which has ravaged parts of West Africa. It includes an 80-bed treatment centre managed by Save The Children charity and a 12-bed operated by British Army medical staff designed to treat international healthcare workers and staff working in the area. London’s Royal Free Hospital also treated British nurses Pauline Cafferkey and Will Pooley – both were diagnosed with the disease after returning from treating patients in Africa.
In a statement the hospital said: “We can confirm that a UK military healthcare worker has been admitted to the Royal Free Hospital today following a needlestick injury while treating a person with Ebola in Sierra Leone. “The individual has been admitted to the Royal Free Hospital for assessment.” The patient will be monitored throughout the 21-day incubation period of Ebola.
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