57-year-old Sue-Ellen Kovack spent the last month volunteering in Sierra Leone.
57-year-old Sue-Ellen Kovack spent the last month volunteering in Sierra Leone.

Any returning worker exposed to Ebola to be kept in Brisbane

MEDICOS exposed to the deadly Ebola virus in parts of Africa will now be isolated in Brisbane under new protocols announced this morning by Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg.

Mr Springborg spoke to calm the state after news broke on Thursday afternoon that a nurse who returned to Cairns from treating Ebola victims in Sierra Leone was suspected to have caught the contagion.

Early blood tests results show Sue-Ellen Kovack, 57, is not infected with Ebola, although the virus has a 21-day incubation period, so more tests will come.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg DAN PELED

A new rule to be shared among the international aid community will have them isolated in Brisbane, where hospitals are best prepared to treat and isolate the virus.

"At the moment, we can properly and competently look after this nurse and to actually assess her requirements in Cairns," he said.

"If there is a worsening of the situation following further testing, we will then be able to safely evacuate her to Brisbane.

"We're very confident we have things under control".

He praised Ms Kovack for ensuring she placed herself in isolation.

She then monitored her own temperature. When that rose, she headed into the Cairns emergency department where she could be assessed.

Mr Springborg said it would be "near on impossible" for Ebola to spread in Australia the way it has in developing countries because we have the capacity to "identify and isolate" those affected.

Qld Ebola patient faces more tests, but no threat to community

INITIAL blood tests done on a Queensland aid worker suspected of having contracted the Ebola virus have come up negative.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young has reported there is "no virus detectable in her blood stream but will be kept under observation".

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young
Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young Sharyn O'Neill

Cairns woman Sue-Ellen Kovack, 57, returned to Australian on the weekend, having worked in Sierra Leone treating Ebola patients.

She is to be kept in isolation for another 24 hours at least to be tested for other diseases.


Dr Young told ABC News Breakfast the aid worker would be kept under close supervision because she remained "within the 21 day incubation period" of the disease.

"The initial tests are negative which is very good news of course for her and for everyone who's been involved," Dr Young said.

"Her fever has resolved overnight which also is very good news .

"But she does have some other symptoms that we just need to keep an eye on.

"We need to work out if there is anything else going on.

"Good news at this stage but we will be continuing to monitor and and observe her until they reaches the end of that 21-day incubation period."

Dr Young also repeated her view that there is no need for Australia to fear an Ebola outbreak here.

"We have very good systems in place in Australia to pick up any potential cases at the border and then to pick up anyone who should become ill later," she said.

"So there is no concern here from the community, from this nurse's potential case or indeed from any case coming into the country.

"Our systems are very thorough of the we've now tested them twice in Queensland.

"We know what needs to be done. And we have those processes in place."





Queensland woman could be first Ebola case in country

A QUEENSLAND aid worker who has spent the past month in Sierra Leone could be the first Australian to have contracted the deadly Ebola virus.

Cairns woman Sue-Ellen Kovack, 57, returned to Australia at the weekend after volunteering with the Red Cross as a nurse at an Ebola hospital in the war-torn country.

Ms Kovack had been in home-based quarantine since her return, but took herself to Cairns Hospital on Thursday afternoon after developing a low-grade fever.

Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said on Thursday Ms Kovack had followed all protocols that had been put into place since her return.She said urgent blood tests were taken and the samples had been rushed to Brisbane for testing.

The results are expected late Thursday evening or early Friday morning. 

"She is not unwell at this time," Dr Young said."But we felt it was important that she was tested for Ebola virus disease."We do not know whether she has that, but she was exposed to people with the disease while working in Sierra Leone and she now has a low-grade fever.

"She came back into the country, she was perfectly well at that time, and she did not have any symptoms or a fever."

She said the Ebola virus was extremely difficult to transmit and had a 21-day incubation period."It is not like the flu or measles, it is not transmitted through the air," she said.

"You need to be exposed to secretions. That is vomit, diarrhoea or blood."She does not have any symptoms producing those secretions so therefore her risk of infecting someone else is very, very low."

Dr Young said there was a South Brisbane man who was currently under home-based quarantine after recently returning to Australia from West Africa.

Last month mine worker Michael Walsh, 27, created headlines worldwide after he was arrested and then claimed, while in the Southport watchhouse, he was starting to come down with a fever.

He told officers he had recently returned from the Congo and they immediately rushed him to the Gold Coast Hospital only to discover it had been a ruse.

The Ebola crisis has put countries on edge after the United States government plans to take the temperatures of travellers from West Africa arriving at five US airports.

The decision followed the death of the first Ebola patient in the US, Thomas Eric Duncan, who died in a Dallas Hospital. 

More information on Ebola 


Earlier in the afternoon, Queensland Health spread the news swiftly to the media through short and sharp updates on its Twitter account. 

Another comment from Queensland Health:

The full statement from Queensland Health:

Queensland Health can confirm a patient is being assessed at the Cairns Hospital by infectious diseases experts.

The patient is being assessed for a range of infections including Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and has been isolated and being managed in accordance with recommended infection control procedures for EVD as a precaution.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the 57 year-old woman had recently returned to Cairns after helping to treat EVD patients in Sierra Leone.

"As recommended by national guidelines, this patient has been isolating herself at home and checking her temperature twice daily since her return, and today has reported an elevated temperature of 37.6 degrees."

"Importantly, she has reported that while in Sierra Leone strict Personal Protective Equipment or PPE procedures were followed at all times and were not breached at any stage.

"However, as her temperature does demonstrate a low-grade fever which can be symptomatic of Ebola virus disease, all necessary precautions are being taken."

Dr Young said test results were expected back in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Friday).

"The broader community is not at risk of contracting Ebola virus disease regardless of whether this health care worker has the disease or not."

"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 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.

Dr Young said Queensland's hospitals, health services, ambulance workforce, general practices, and other medical staff had been continually updated with specific guidance in the management of a potential Ebola virus disease case.

"Our plans are working and as with all Queensland health facilities, the Cairns Hospital has processes in place to manage these types of infections."

"We are prepared."

GALLERY: Haigslea preppies show off their smiles

Premium Content GALLERY: Haigslea preppies show off their smiles

This year’s class of preps at Haigslea want to be teachers, boxers, astronauts and...

GALLERY: Marburg Preps show us their silly side!

Premium Content GALLERY: Marburg Preps show us their silly side!

Vets, policeman, go karts: Marburg preps show off their smiles and their silly...

Race to track travellers linked to ‘superspreader’

Premium Content Race to track travellers linked to ‘superspreader’

Explained: Race to track travellers linked to ‘superspreader’