Sarah Teather slams “irrational selfish scare stories” over nurse with Ebola

Sarah TeatherI was furious last night when I saw some social media posts from people who should know better complaining that the nurse now being treated in London for Ebola was let back into the country. Some of them calmed down a bit when you explained that it would have been impossible for anyone to catch Ebola when she was showing no symptoms on the flight. In fact, it would have been pretty darned hard, involving more intimacy than is usual with complete strangers on a flight, even if she had started to develop a fever during the journey.

People were asking why those travelling back from West Africa shouldn’t be quarantined to make sure that they were disease free, despite all the evidence that this would be a costly waste of resource.

Surely the courage of these health workers, willing to put themselves in harm’s way to help their fellow human beings, is what we should be talking about. Working 12 hour shifts wearing suffocatingly hot protective equipment in often harrowing circumstances is an incredibly selfless thing to do.

Outgoing Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather was equally irritated. On Facebook, she told people who were worried about their own health to “get a grip.”

Really very irritated by the media coverage of the nurse in Glasgow with Ebola that is all irrational selfish scare stories based on zero science and with zero obvious concern for the nurse herself. Get a grip people. Infection risk to the public utterly remote. Spare a thought instead for the communities ravaged by this in Sierra Leone and marvel at the generosity, bravery and skill of our own health workers who volunteer to go and work there. Say some prayers for them tonight instead of yourselves!

She’s not wrong. This woman deserves all our good wishes for her recovery and future health. Some nurses spoke to the Guardian a couple of months ago, describing their daily life caring for Ebola patients. This story has a happy ending:

Kadiatu was one of the first patients at the treatment centre, and because she had been inside the high-risk area she had to go through the “happy shower” before she could be discharged: a chlorine bath followed by a normal soapy shower to remove all potential remains of the virus. Her contaminated clothes were destroyed and she was given a new dress and sandals. When she came out she was clean, uncontaminated and safe. She turned around to wave to Haja – another Ebola patient who has been taking care of Kadiatu inside – and walked out past the double orange fencing.

As we wait for her transport home to Freetown, we can finally sit together. Kadiatu is brought breakfast and vitamins, but the nurses no longer need to wear the personal protective equipment, and the psychosocial counsellor can talk to her in private and uninterrupted. Kadiatu makes us dance for her as she sings, and we can take photos together without being worried about coming too close. Magically, our first survivor is this beautiful, strong 11-year-old with the widest, whitest smile I have ever seen, and as the car drives off I know she will be fine. Her mother and siblings are waiting for her at home, and for us, the staff at the treatment centre, we know that people can survive Ebola and that there will be many more happy days like this one in the midst of all the fear and despair.

Not all stories end so well. Their accounts of the suffering of their patients are not easy to read, but everyone who is complaining needs to read them and understand how lucky we are to have a freely available health service. The lack of this sort of provision in West Africa is what has enabled Ebola to take hold. The international community should have done more, and sooner, and should think long term about preventing such disease outbreaks in the future.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Tony Greaves 30th Dec '14 - 1:40pm

    The BBC reporting on this has, for once, been excellent.


  • Caron – is there not a “Better Together” angle to this in that the NHS in Scotland is using a London facility to treat a patient. A good argument for the continuation of the Union.

  • Jayne Mansfield 30th Dec '14 - 2:06pm

    I hope the nurse makes a full recovery.

  • Richard: ‘…is there not a “Better Together” angle to this in that the NHS in Scotland is using a London facility to treat a patient[?]’


    Hands down one of the most politically opportunistic things I have ever seen said. You should be ashamed of yourself Richard.

  • Why are we continuously being told that it is so hard to catch Ebola?

  • @david: Because, er, it’s really hard to catch Ebola? And people are still making stupid comments about quarantining returnees.

    Great post, Sarah.

  • Feodor; clearly one would not make a public point of this, but the issue is one to ponder and address: had Scotland been independent, where would this brave woman be being treated?

  • @ Feodor “one of the most politically opportunistic things”… Well it might be regarded as opportunistic if it had not been said during the referendum campaign in general terms and now here is a very specific example which illustrates the general point which was made then. Many people respond more to concrete examples than to generalities.

  • Tony Greaves 31st Dec '14 - 5:59pm

    If Scotland had been independent she would have been treated at, er, the Royal Free in London.


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