A nurse employed by a health NGO who returned from work in Sierra Leone has become the first person to test positive for Ebola in Italy, officials confirmed on Wednesday.
The man, The New York Times reports, returned from Sierra Leone last week and only began exhibiting symptoms of the disease upon arriving in Sardinia, Italy. He traveled back from Italy through Morocco; World Health Organization (WHO) officials state that they will not monitor the individuals on the flights with the affected health care worker because he began showing symptoms 72 hours after arriving in Italy, and the virus is only contagious when a person shows visible symptoms.
He was transferred to the Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital in Rome, which specializes in infectious diseases and is properly equipped to quarantine the patient. WHO does note that the hospital in Sassari, Sardinia, was also “well-equipped” with protective gear, and there is no expectation that the hospital is at risk for an outbreak.
Officials at the hospital posted a bulletin on their website stating that the patient was “febrile, lucid, and cooperative,” and that he is expected to make a full recovery after being treated with some experimental anti-Ebola drugs. The Shanghai Daily adds the news that “a few” people in Sardinia have been quarantined after coming into contact with the patient, but the report did not specify how many.
While being the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in Italy, the nurse, whose identity has not been revealed, is the second to be treated in the country for the deadly virus. The first man, a doctor who also worked for the NGO Emergency, recovered after being diagnosed with the disease in west Africa. The New York Times notes that, in earlier interviews with Italian journal La Repubblica, the doctor said that he would be open to allowing his blood to be used in experimental treatments for new Ebola patients.
As of May 3, 11,020 deaths due to the current Ebola outbreak have been recorded worldwide. The outbreak is believed to have began in February 2014 in Guinea, with patient zero being a child who came into contact with a contaminated bat. Liberia, once the nation recording the most number of Ebola diagnoses, was declared free of the disease this week, but health workers in Sierra Leone continue to struggle to help patients recover.
The Awareness Times, the largest newspaper in Sierra Leone, reports that there are four cases still ongoing in Sierra Leone. A country cannot be declared Ebola-free until no cases arise 42 days after the last person diagnosed with Ebola is either declared to have survived the disease or died. Sierra Leone has, nonetheless, reopened its schools and is attempting to return to normalcy, but not without maintaining emergency restrictions and procedure.
President Ernest Koroma said this week, “We are not going to lift the Emergency restrictions. The last time they asked us to do so and we succumbed to their pressure, things happened; the Ebola cases rose and what did they do? They, the same people who asked us to lift the restrictions, turned around and blamed us.” He added, “We will lift the Emergency restrictions after WHO declares the country to be Ebola free which will be at end of 42 continuous days of zero Ebola cases.”