A British military healthcare worker being treated for Ebola at London’s Royal Free hospital has been discharged after becoming the first Ebola patient in the world to be given the experimental drug MIL 77.
The woman, who was diagnosed with the disease while working in Sierra Leone earlier this month, can now be named as 25-year-old Anna Cross, from Cambridge. Cpl Cross was flown back to the UK on an RAF plane on 12 March.
At a press conference at the hospital on Friday, Cross said she had been treated by an “absolutely incredible bunch of clinicians”.
“I’m a military health worker and in my civilian job I work for the NHS as an IT nurse,” she said. “If it wasn’t for both those institutions I wouldn’t be here today. I was diagnosed in the treatment facility I had worked in by the colleagues I worked with. That gave me confidence, because they were professionals. They put me on a flight less than 24 hours after I was diagnosed. Thanks to the team here, who I would say are the best in the world at treating this disease … I’m alive.”
Cross was admitted to the special isolation unit at the Royal Free, where two British nurses with Ebola – William Pooley and Pauline Cafferkey – were successfully treated.
Cross joined the Army Reserves in 2013 as a staff nurse, and volunteered to travel to Sierra Leone in February to help care for Ebola patients. According to the hospital, Cross had decided she wanted to be treated with the experimental drug MIL 77 “after careful consideration”.
She said she cried when she found out she was free of the virus and attributed eating strawberries to help her through it. She said it will still take a “long time” before she is fully fit and would “love” to continue volunteering with the military, although she suspected she would not be able to return to Sierra Leone.
Cross said she had no idea how she contracted the virus, and described the experience of going from nurse to patient as “weird”. She said her plans were to “go and eat food and watch TV … going out to a restaurant will just be the most exciting thing”.
Two colleagues who were in close contact with Cross were flown back on the same plane. They have both since been discharged. Two further contacts were flown to Newcastle Royal Infirmary.
Up to 700 UK defence personnel are in Sierra Leone as part of an effort to tackle the Ebola outbreak. The death toll from the disease has passed 10,000.