LABORATORY staff at a Glasgow hospital have been told not to leave the country and monitor their temperature daily after handling bodily fluids from Ebola nurse Pauline Cafferkey, it has been claimed.
The 39-year-old was rushed by ambulance to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital last week after again showing symptoms of the deadly disease.
She was later flown in a military aircraft to an isolation unit at Royal Free in London but the Evening Times has learned that “samples” – which can include blood, saliva, urine and faeces - were first sent to the laboratory buildings at the Govan hospital.
Staff have claimed that they were not told they were handling bodily fluids from the infected nurse and some may not have been using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde issued a statement yesterday confirming that 58 “close contacts” - including “healthcare workers” - are being monitored by an "expert group"and have been offered a vaccination.
The Evening Times understands an emergency meeting was held at the hospital on Friday amid fears that the disease, which can be transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of sufferers while they are symptomatic, could spread.
The multi-storey hospital is linked to the laboratory buildings via an underground tunnel and pneumatic tube.
A source at the hospital, who asked not to be named, said: “A meeting took place on Friday in the lab building with lab staff who may or may not have handled samples from the Ebola patient.
“When the samples were to the lab noone thought to alert staff that they came from a patient who had Ebola recently.
“Staff handling the samples didn’t wear gloves and are now concerned. If known, the samples would have been handled differently – the staff would have been in PPE.
“Staff were stopping for holiday on Friday, next week being a school holiday week. Suggestions were made that potentially affected staff shouldn’t go on holiday.
“Staff who are at risk are to monitor their temperature daily.”
Pauline Cafferkey spent almost a month in isolation at the beginning of the year after contracting the disease in December 2014 while treating patients in West Africa.
Bodily tissues can harbour the Ebola virus months after the infected person appears to have fully recovered.
Last week the nurse went to Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary when she started showing symptoms shortly after visiting a primary school in East Kilbride to thank pupils for their fundraising efforts.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde confirmed she was sent home by an out-of-hours doctor on Monday but by Wednesday she had to be admitted to the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
Pauline Cafferkey’s family have described her treatment as “diabolical”, said she had been “let down” and insisted doctors in Glasgow “missed a big opportunity to give the right diagnosis”.
She was airlifted to the Royal Free in the early hours of Friday morning where she remains in a “serious condition”, according to a hospital spokesman.
The Evening Times put all of the claims made by laboratory staff at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital to a spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
She said: “Our guidelines are clear that our laboratory staff use the appropriate personal protective equipment which is provided when handling any patient samples to protect against cross infection.
“All samples should be considered as potentially infectious which is why our guidelines stipulate the wearing of personal protective equipment at all times for laboratory staff.
“All close contacts of Pauline Cafferkey since she became symptomatic have now been identified.
“A total of 58 close contacts have been confirmed and they are a mixture of healthcare workers and Pauline’s friends, family and community contacts.
“All 58 close contacts are being closely monitored. This includes a period of 21 days since their last potential exposure where they will have their temperature taken twice daily, restrictions placed on travel and, in the case of healthcare workers they have been asked not to have direct patient contact during this period.”