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HSE under fire as family say dad didn't have Ebola

FAMILY members of a man at the centre of an Ebola alert said today they don't believe he died from the illness.

Dessie Quinn (44) was found dead at his home outside Mountcharles, Co Donegal, in the early hours of yesterday.

He had been treated for malaria in Sierra Leone where he worked for a Clondalkin-based company laying cables.

However, some members of Mr Quinn's family did not receive medical advice ahead of the HSE warning last night that it was treating his death as a potential Ebola case.

No-one was placed in quarantine and some family members only learned of the alert on the RTE Six One News.

The HSE said today that it was in contact with certain family members "from the outset". However, this only happened after Mr Quinn's death.

It also emerged that fellow workers of Mr Quinn at KN Network Services in Dublin have been evacuated from Sierra Leone.

The father-of-one, whose son lives in Dublin, was a popular member of staff and lived most of his time in the capital when he wasn't working abroad.

He had returned to his native Mountcharles to be close to his large extended family as he fought malaria. Friends say he was diagnosed in Sierra Leone and had been ill for the past two weeks.

However, he had appeared to be recovering and was well enough to have drinks with friends in the Milltown Bar in nearby Inver on Sunday night.

"We believe this has been blown way out of proportion and the HSE announcement has brought added stress to the family," said one relative today.

"We understand the precaution but as soon as the media was told a man from South West Donegal was under investigation (for the illness) it didn't take a whole lot of time for everyone to work out that it was Dessie the HSE was talking about."

Catholic Curate Dr Adrian Gavigan said it was "poor form" that some members of the Quinn family learned of the alert on the TV news.

"The first they heard of it was when someone watched the news. Before that, they had just presumed that Dessie had died from malaria," he said. "Nothing had suggested anything different and for relatives to find out like this was very poor form in my opinion.

"There had been no mention of the Ebola virus at all until the announcement by the Health Services Executive.

"It is a very, very sad time for his family."

The HSE announced last night that Mr Quinn's remains were being assessed in an isolated area of Letterkenny General Hospital, after being removed from the home to the hospital by an undertaker.

Blood samples have been sent for laboratory testing to confirm whether or not he died from the Ebola virus. The results are expected later today.

Mr Quinn had been feeling well enough to go out with friends at the weekend. He had visited pubs in Inver, around 3km from his home in Mountcharles, on Sunday evening.

Questions were being asked about why he had not been tested for 
Ebola earlier, especially as the symptoms of malaria and Ebola are similar.

The direction to hospitals is to screen patients who have returned from a country within 21 days where there has been an outbreak of the virus who display fever and flu-like symptoms.

Dr Darina O'Flanagan, Head of the HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre, said: "In general, the risk of contracting Ebola virus disease is extremely low and would involve very close personal contact with the infected individual or their body fluids for there to be any risk at all.

"We await the outcome of the laboratory tests before we will know whether or not this individual had contracted Ebola virus disease. The appropriate public health guidelines are being followed at every stage in this process as a precaution."

Colleagues of Mr Quinn say they are devastated by his death.

"The management and Board of KN Network Services (KNNS) express their deepest sympathies and sorrow to the family and friends of the late Dessie Quinn following his untimely death," said the Clondalkin-based company today.

"Dessie was an extremely hard-working and valued member of staff and was very popular with all his colleagues and he will be missed by everybody who worked with him.

"The company have offered their support to the Quinn family in Donegal. They are also liaising with Dessie's fellow work colleagues from Sierra Leone on an ongoing basis about the necessary supports, updates, precautions and company contacts," KNNS said.