Australia fears IRC worker may be first case of Ebola

An Australian nurse who worked for the International Red Cross in Sierra Leone treating patients suffering from Ebola has developed a fever and been admitted to a hospital in Cairns, in northeast Australia.

The chief health officer for the state of Queensland, Dr. Jeannette Young, said on Thursday that the woman had returned over the weekend from a month of work in Sierra Leone. She landed in Brisbane, the state’s capital and most populous city, and then traveled to her home in Cairns.

“Importantly, she has reported that while in Sierra Leone strict personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., procedures were followed at all times and were not breached at any stage,” Dr. Young said in a statement issued by the state government’s Health Department.

The statement said the “broader community is not at risk of contracting Ebola virus disease regardless of whether this health care worker has the disease or not,” because the nurse followed strict protocols after returning to Australia, including taking her own temperature twice daily and remaining in isolation at home.

At a news conference held in Brisbane, Dr. Young said the 57-year-old woman, who has not been identified by name, was well when she returned to Australia.

“She has been exposed to people with the disease while working with people in Sierra Leone,” Dr. Young told reporters. “She has been in home isolation since then, following the protocol that we put in place nationally.

“This morning she rang up as part of that national protocol because she had developed a low-grade fever of 37.6 degrees Celsius,” or 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit,

1 of 2 10/9/14 9:10 AMAustralian Nurse, Returning From Sierra Leone, Tested for Ebol……

Dr. Young said. “We felt it important that she come into the Cairns hospital and be tested for Ebola virus disease.”

Blood samples have been taken from the woman to be tested in Brisbane, and results would be known in the early hours of Friday. She remains in isolation at the Cairns hospital.

The Health Department statement added: “While Ebola is a very serious disease, it is not highly contagious as it cannot be caught through coughing or sneezing; a person is not infectious until they are unwell with the disease.” It noted that the infection risk is extremely low unless there has been direct exposure to an infected person’s bodily fluids.

The Australian nurse is the second person in Queensland State to be tested for the Ebola virus. A 27-year-old man from the Gold Coast was tested Sept. 11, after he returned to Queensland from travels in Africa. The man’s test results were negative for the virus.

In a statement on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said that there were around 8,033 confirmed cases of Ebola and 3,879 people had died, including 725 confirmed deaths in Sierra Leone, one of the worst affected nations in the current outbreak.

The W.H.O. said the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown, had reported a surge in new cases over the past seven to eight weeks. More than 200 health care workers have died from Ebola, most of them in West Africa.

Only two cases have been diagnosed outside West Africa: A Liberian man began showing symptoms four days after arriving in Dallas, Tex., and he died on Wednesday; and a Spanish nurse, working in Madrid, has tested positive for the disease after treating a missionary who had contracted the disease in Sierra Leone.

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