Corporal Anna Cross, the nurse who contracted the deadly Ebola virus when volunteering as a British Army reservist, has been released from hospital in London after being given the all clear. She becomes the first patient in the world to be treated with an experimental new drug, although on her release she said her recovery was down to a less conventional treatment: strawberries.
The nurse, who usually works as an intensive care nurse at Addenbroke’s Hospital in Cambridge joked, “I reckon I’ve had 10 punnets” as she was allowed to travel home from the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead the Telegraph reports.
The 25-year-old spent only a fortnight in an isolation unit when she was given the first ever dose of MIL 77, an antibody manufactured in China, something she volunteered for despite the risks.
Cpl Cross had been treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for a month when she fell ill. She had been working at the same British-run clinic as Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who also contracted the virus. Both Cafferkey and fellow nurse Will Pooley have also been successfully treated at the Royal Free.
She was evacuated to Britain on an RAF plane on March 12 and taken to hospital with a police escort after being diagnosed by one of her colleagues in the centre.
“I had treated a patient that was in the facility and the next day I was sat with him,” the nurse told journalists at a press conference, dressed in her Army uniform. “It was nice in a sense because I felt like we were having the same experience and we were both being treated to the same standard. He was encouraging me, saying: these might be your symptoms but hey-ho, you’re going to get through it.”
She described how she lost 22 pounds during the treatment and was confined to her bed for a week where she watched nature documentaries to keep her going.
But despite being the first person to be treated using the new drug, Cpl Cross said the decision to have it was not difficult.
“I said ‘I have Ebola, so, yes, I’d rather have that than high-dose vitamin C,’” she said.
She thanked her doctor, Mike Jacobs, an infectious disease consultant, and her team of clinicians, adding: “Thanks to them I’m alive”.
Her recovery was partly put down to her fitness levels prior to getting ill, but said in spite of that even walking around the isolation tent after a week of being bed bound was painful. “I first stood up on my own feet about a week ago,” she said. “Walking round the tent was extremely, extremely hard. I was really weak. They attributed a lot of my recovery to the fact I was in the military before and I had done a lot of physical exercise.”
Dr Jacobs said it was too early to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of MIL77. “I can’t attribute Anna’s recovery to the medicine. On the other hand, we wouldn’t have used the medicine unless it was hopefully going to be of benefit to her.”
Cpl Cross, who plans to return to her previous fitness levels, said she would go to treat Ebola patients again, but does not think she will be needed since the virus appears to be under control.
According to World Health Organisation statistics, a total of 79 new confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) were reported in the week to 22 March: the lowest weekly total in 2015. There were 45 new confirmed cases reported from Guinea.
However, having reported no cases for 3 consecutive weeks and hoping to be free of the virus, a new confirmed case was reported from Liberia on 20 March. Sierra Leone reported 33 new confirmed cases in the week to 22 March.