Virologist in Isolation After Accident With Ebola

Martin is a contributing news editor and writer based in Amsterdam

A researcher at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, was put in isolation last week after pricking herself with a syringe containing the Ebola virus. According to ProMED :

The woman is being treated in Hamburg University Hospital on suspicion of Ebola virus infection. The victim worked in the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, where last Thursday [12 Mar 2009] while working in the high security wing received a needle stick injury despite wearing protective clothing. The woman has been transferred to an isolation unit for treatment of the potentially highly contagious disease. So far the patient has shown no signs of illness. Risk of transmission of infection has been discounted. In consultation with an international team of experts and the patient herself [an experimental] vaccine was administered which has not been used previously humans.

Stephan Günther, head of the Nocht Institute's virology department, tells ScienceInsider that the virologist, whose name he declined to reveal to protect her privacy, was working with Ebola Zaïre, one of five known subtypes of the virus.

The last known time a scientist was exposed to Ebola was at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland, in 2004. That researcher was also put in an isolation unit, dubbed "the slammer" by USAMRIID virologists. A 2008 paper about the case contains recommendations on how to handle such exposures.

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