Australian nurse tests negative for Ebola

Updated: 2014-10-10 09:31


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CANBERRA - A Queensland nurse has tested negative for the Ebola virus after returning from treating patients in west Africa where the disease is rife.

Sue-Ellen Kovack, 57, returned to Australia over the weekend after a month-long stay in Sierra Leone, where she worked with the Red Cross,treating patients of the outbreak.

She presented to the Cairns Hospital on Thursday afternoon with a low-grade fever - her temperature having risen to 37.6 degrees Celsius.

Kovack was assessed by an infectious diseases specialist at Cairns Base Hospital, where she works, and underwent blood tests. A sample of her blood was immediately flown to Brisbane where a specialist was waiting to conduct the tests which were expected to take four hours.

On Friday morning, Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young announced Kovack had been cleared of the deadly virus.

However Dr. Young said the Cairns-based woman would be kept under observation for 24 hours, "to be sure she is clear of EVD and any other disease."

"She still remains in the incubation period so we're going to keep a very, very close eye on her," she said.

"Although her fever resolved this morning, she still is a little bit unwell, so we also do want to find out whether she's picked something else up. We can't actually give the total clear at this stage because she's still within the 21-day incubation period."

The west African Ebola outbreak is largely centered around the countries of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, where almost 8,000 suspected cases have resulted in the deaths of around 3,500 people.

Dr. Young, however, said the broader Australian community was not at risk from Ebola.

"There is no concern here from the community - from this nurse' s potential case or indeed from any case coming into the country," she said.

While Australia is yet to record a case of the Ebola virus, a British man has died from the disease in Macedonia, as has a Liberian national in the United States.

While Dr. Young praised Kovack as "an amazing lady" for her aid work in West Africa, Federal MP Bob Katter had a different view.

The outspoken MP, whose electorate of Kennedy includes the southern area of Cairns, slammed quarantine authorities and said the nurse put the nation at risk because of her humanitarian ambitions.

Katter said it was "unbelievable and incomprehensible" how a person could get into Australia from an Ebola infected country.

"There cannot be any compromise with this," Katter said.

"If you want to go to one of these countries, however laudable your motivation, I am sorry but when you return to Australia, you must be quarantined for three weeks - not home quarantined."