A far north Queensland nurse who returned from west Africa will be taken out of isolation if her second Ebola tests return a negative result.
A far north Queensland nurse at the centre of Australia’s latest Ebola scare will be taken out of isolation if tests taken on Sunday return a negative result.
Cairns woman Sue Ellen Kovack, 57, who recently returned from west Africa on a Red Cross deployment, presented to authorities on Thursday after developing a fever.
Her first round of testing came back negative for Ebola early on Friday morning, after her fever resolved overnight.
While in a stable condition, Ms Kovack remains within the 21 day incubation period for the Ebola virus disease and is being closely monitored in Cairns Hospital.
Queensland’s health department has reiterated that the broader public is not at risk of contracting Ebola.
“While Ebola is a very serious disease, it is not highly contagious as it cannot be caught through coughing or sneezing. A person is not infectious until they are unwell with the disease,” the department said in a statement on Sunday.
“The risk of infection is extremely low, unless there has been direct exposure to the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal such as vomit, blood or diarrhoea.”
Queensland premier Campbell Newman said he was satisfied with the handling of the incident.
“I’ve spoken to the director general of health, and he and the chief health officer went up there yesterday to make sure that everything was done correctly and it was,” he said.
“I assure the public that we will make sure that they are totally protected against this and other diseases.”
Federal MP Bob Katter has become a vocal critic of Australia’s contagious disease protocols.
Mr Katter claimed Ms Kovack’s journey from Sierra Leone to Queensland put “thousands” of people at risk in each airport she passed through.
Mr Newman said “some people” had chosen to alarm the community by saying “things that clearly weren’t correct”.
Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, has flagged a possible amendment to national guidelines following the latest suspected case.
Aid workers returning from Ebola-impacted regions should stay near testing facilities in metropolitan cities to avoid delays in sending blood samples long distances, Ms Young suggested.
Mr Newman agreed that a more “systematic national approach” was needed.
“I think we need to be mindful not just of the health impacts but the actual economic problems that could occur, from someone being detected with the disease.”
He said if Cairns had recorded a case of Ebola it would have caused a problem for the tourism industry.