British Ebola patient 'pretty well'

British Ebola patient 'pretty well'

William Pooley, 29, has spent the last week in a special isolation unit at Royal Free Hospital in London. His parents, Robin and Jackie, say they knew he was improving when he ordered a "bacon butty" and praised the "world class" care at the hospital.

More than 1,500 people have died since the outbreak started in Guinea. Mr Pooley was volunteering as a nurse in Sierra Leone when he was infected. But he did not tell his parents until it was confirmed that he was going to be flown home.

His mother, Jackie, said: "We were at our niece's wedding and he phoned, we were out in the grounds and the photos were being taken.

"We assumed he'd phoned to wish his cousin every happiness."

The phone was passed around family members, but his father, Robin, thought William was sounding "flat" and that there was something wrong.

He said: "So fairly soon I rang him back and he told me. At which point the first thing in mind is, 'We can't spoil the day.'"

He told his wife later and they made an early exit from the wedding.

The flight

Mrs Pooley described it as a "very stressful" and anxious time when "all the worst case scenarios" were running through her mind.

Initially the family were worried that Mr Pooley would not make it to the plane as he had to travel 160 miles through countless checkpoints to the airport in the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown.

She told the BBC: "It wasn't until the plane had taken off that we breathed a very, very small sigh of relief, we knew he was on his way home."

He was flown back to the UK on an RAF plane on Sunday 24 August and taken to the Royal Free Hospital. 

Mr Pooley is being treated at a specialist isolation unit at London's Royal Free Hospital. He is still being kept in an isolation unit. His family can talk to him through a telephone link and see him "indistinctly" through the layers of glass and the polythene designed to stop the deadly disease spreading. Doctors have treated him with the experimental drug ZMapp.

Robin Pooley said: "He's a lot better than we thought he might have been, we've only got what the medics tell us, but he's got a little step in there which the physio gave him so he can rebuild his strength, that in itself is a good enough sign I think, but he seems to be pretty well actually.

"And his appetite's back, it came back with a bacon butty one morning for breakfast."

The disease is largely contained to Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone where there have been 3,070 cases and 1,552 deaths. The World Health Organization has warned as many as 20,000 people could be infected before the outbreak is over.

"He's very aware of what he left behind," said Mrs Pooley. "We're very glad he's here because the care is second to none."

The family said they were feeling much "happier now than we did in a week ago" and in the long-term hope he will make a full recovery.

But for now they just want him home: "We should be delighted when that day comes."


Ebola virus disease (EVD)

- Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage

- Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva

- Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 55%

- Incubation period is two to 21 days

- There is no vaccine or cure

- Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery

- Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host.

By James Gallagher & Branwen Jeffreys,

BBC News, Monday 01 September 2014