A British healthcare worker who has tested positive for Ebola has left Sierra Leone on a Royal Air Force jet bound for the UK.

The man known to local staff as ’William’ is being flown to RAF Northolt near Heathrow from where he will be taken to an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in north London. The flight on a specially equipped C17 plane will take about eight hours.

He is understood to have been a volunteer at a clinic in the country’s Kenema district. It is unclear whether RAF personnel travelled to the area or just received the patient at the airport.

The man is understood to have been staying at a guest house and personally made the journey to Kenema to offer his help.

Sources having  knowledge of the repatriation describe the young male nurse, who is estimated to be in his late 20s or early 30s - as a "remarkable and amazing young man".

Sky’s Enda Brady said: "Inside that aircraft will be an air transport isolator, a piece of equipment that has been used several times in the past few years. The patient will effectively be placed inside a bubble."

The Royal Free has the UK’s only high-level isolation unit comprising of a specially designed tent with controlled ventilation, which has been on standby since the latest outbreak.

The Department of Health said: "The UK has well-established and practised infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease.

"These will be strictly followed to minimise the risk of transmission while the patient is in transit and receiving treatment at the Royal Free Hospital."

It is the first confirmed case of a British person catching the tropical infection, which kills up to 90% of those who contract it.

Professor Tom Solomon, director of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, said the "strains" on the healthcare system in Sierra Leone may be the reason for moving the patient.

"We do have facilities in the UK for caring for people with haemorrhagic fevers," he said. "There is a high-level isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London which is very well set up for things like this.

"The medical services in Sierra Leone are very strained at the minute so it may well be the case that this person is brought to the UK for treatment."

The Foreign Office has advised Britons to "carefully assess" whether they need to travel to Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea, where the current outbreak began in March.

Since then the World Health Organisation says there have been 2,615 confirmed cases and 1,427 deaths.

Medical charity Medicine Sans Frontieres has warned that infections are spreading faster than authorities can handle and it could take six months to bring the outbreak under control.

Professor John Watson, Britain’s deputy chief medical officer for England, insisted the risk to the British public remained "very low".

"The precautions are what I would describe as belt and braces. We want to be absolutely certain there is no risk of infection by this patient to others in this country," he said.

Ebola is contracted through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids and there is currently no cure or vaccine.

Symptoms of the virus appear as a sudden onset of fever, headache, sore throat, intense weakness and muscle pain.

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