Ebola scare ends with death from yellow fever

 

Doctors said yesterday that the man suspected of having the Ebola virus, who died yesterday, in fact had yellow fever. It was only the second case in Germany since the second World War.

"He was probably not immunised", said Dr Christian Meyer, assistant director of the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Berlin. "There were no antibodies in his blood, which would indicate that he had not been immunised. This is the first case of yellow fever in Germany since 1946 because most people who go to these countries in West Africa and South America have the vaccination."

Mr Olaf Ullmann (39) died less than a week after feeling ill on his return from Ivory Coast, West Africa. The wildlife cameraman was being treated under strict quarantine conditions at a special isolation clinic in Berlin because doctors feared he had the Ebola virus.

He died yesterday morning after developing a high fever on Sunday night and later starting to bleed from his skin. These are classic signs of a viral haemorrhagic fever, of which Ebola is the most dangerous, but yellow fever is also untreatable.

An emergency medical helicopter was used on Tuesday to take him from his home town of Frankfurt an der Oder, east of Berlin, to the Verchow isolation clinic in the city. The 40 patients there were immediately evacuated and staff treating him were not allowed to leave the campus.

During Thursday his condition deteriorated as his internal organs began to fail and he suffered brain damage. Despite Mr Ullmann's death, security conditions at the clinic yesterday remained in place.

A spokesman for the Berlin health authority, Mr Christoph Abele, said the security measures would be relaxed gradually over the next few days. The main and immediate concern had been whether Mr Ullmann had the Ebola virus, he said.

"That was the first thing to test for. And the patient told doctors himself that he had been inoculated against yellow fever. This is a question which will have to be cleared up with his wife and other doctors."

Ms Kerstin Ullrich, spokeswoman for the clinic, said that an autopsy would be conducted as soon as possible. The four doctors and 10 nurses at the clinic would be allowed home within the next couple of days.

The concern over Ebola, which kills about 90 per cent of those who get it, was so serious that the army was brought into the clinic to provide airborne, chemical and biological warfare protection equipment for the staff and train them in using it.

An army spokesman, Mr Norbert Holla, said: "Four specialists from the ABC unit were sent in to provide enough equipment for 20 people and to train them in its use.

This was as a precautionary measure in case the staff there had to take the patient outside. Within the clinic the staff were using their own protection equipment."

A colleague of Mr Ullmann who had worked with him in Africa was admitted to another hospital and kept under quarantine conditions this week for precautionary reasons. The 40-year-old from Jena, south of Leipzig, was released yesterday as he had been immunised against yellow fever, according to a spokeswoman for the Jena University Hospital.