There were fears today that Ebola has reached Australia after a nurse developed symptoms of the virus. Sue Ellen Kovack, who had been working with the Red Cross in Sierra Leone, one of the worst affected countries, returned to Australia on Tuesday before developing the symptoms.
The Australian reports that she has developed a fever, prompting her to contact authorities who admitted her to hospital in the city of Cairns.
Jeanette Young, Chief Health Officer for Queensland, she that she has not yet shown other symptoms, but the case was still being treated as suspected Ebola as a precautionary measure.
“This morning [Ms Kovack] rang up … because she developed a low-grade fever of 37.6C,” Dr Young said.
“We felt it important that she come into the Cairns hospital and be tested. We don’t know whether she has that [Ebola], but she’s been exposed to people with the disease while working in Sierra Leone.”
She added that authorities are treating the case seriously, reassured local residents that there is no risk to anyone in the community or the hospital.
Blood has been taken to be tested, with results expected back tomorrow.
Dr Young added that there was no need for people on Ms Kovack’s flight home to worry as Ebola is relatively hard to catch. “There is absolutely no concern for any passenger on any plane she’s been on because she did not have any symptoms at all when she was on those flights,” she said.
This is the fourth time that Australia has investigated potential Ebola cases. Last month, a woman was given the all-clear after being held in quarantine in a Perth hospital, while a one-year-old child was also cleared of the virus after developing suspicious symptoms.
A man in the city of Gold Coast was also given the all-clear after being tested for the virus after complaining of symptoms while in police custody. The people in all three cases had recently returned from Africa.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told his country that measures are in place to deal with the disease.
“What we’re doing at the moment is we’re carefully monitoring everyone coming to this country who’s been in West Africa.
“In every state, public hospitals have been prepared to deal with Ebola cases should we get any.”