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Ebola nurse's condition deteriorates

The Scottish nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola last week after returning from Sierra Leone is now in a critical condition, the hospital treating her confirmed yesterday.

The Royal Free Hospital in North London said Pauline Cafferkey's condition had gradually deteriorated over the past two days.

She has been receiving an experimental anti-viral drug and blood from survivors of the disease.

Ms Cafferkey is a relative of Republic of Ireland goalkeeping legend Packie Bonner.

Meanwhile, Ireland is to donate another €778,000 to Sierra Leone to help fund a fleet of ambulances and burial vehicles to the afflicted country, where the virus has claimed almost 3,000 lives and continues to spread.

The latest support brings the total Irish Government donation to the West African region to over €18m in 2014.

This includes more than €5m for Ebola treatment facilities in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and funding for contact-tracing and child nutrition programmes.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said: "This programme will improve the reach and effectiveness of the emergency vehicles and thus reduce Ebola transmission and mortality rates by ensuring that ambulances and other response vehicles are properly maintained, fuelled and decontaminated."

In particular, the additional funding will go towards ambulance teams in 12 of Sierra Leone's 14 districts - home to an estimated five million people.

"It is vital that the international community remains engaged and vigilant in responding to the Ebola crisis," said Mr Flanagan.

The disease has claimed more than 8,000 lives in West Africa since the outbreak began in Guinea in early 2014. However, the number of known global cases has exceeded 20,000, according to the World Health Organization.

In the UK, an expert has warned that Pauline Cafferkey (39), who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, is facing a "critical few days" that will decide her fate.

Professor Jonathan Ball of Nottingham University said: "The situation can change very fast. The next few days are critical. No treatment is necessarily perfect. There is enough evidence to suggest plasma treatment could do some good."

According to Prof Ball, a lot of evidence about blood transfusion is anecdotal.

"It seems to work but more studies need to be done. She is receiving an experimental drug. We don't know what it is exactly," he said.

Although the public health nurse was allowed to continue flying to Glasgow despite feeling ill and having her temperature tested seven times at Heathrow airport, Prof Ball said "at no point has she been a serious risk to anybody".

Meanwhile, Damien Queally (38), an Irish aid worker based in West Africa, said in a newspaper interview yesterday that he was "surprised" that he was able to return home to Co Clare for Christmas without any type of screening checks or Ebola information desk at Dublin airport.

The deputy regional director with Plan Ireland, who works in Senegal, regularly travelled in and out of the Ebola-hit countries within 21 days of flying.

Sunday Independent