Medic tests negative for Ebola

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Medic tests negative for Ebola

A Korean medical worker exposed to Ebola while working in West Africa tested negative for the disease, a hospital in Germany said Sunday after conducting an initial checkup.

The member of Korea’s emergency response team in Sierra Leone was flown to Germany on Saturday and sent to the Berlin’s Charite hospital, five days after suffering an injury with a hypodermic needle.

Following an initial blood test, the hospital’s spokesman, Uwe Dolderer, said the medic tested negative. Doctors have found evidence that a needle had brushed the medic’s index finger, but no bleeding or fever was monitored, the spokesman said.

According to Dr. Frank Bergmann, who oversees treatment of highly infectious patients at Charite, the medic was exposed to the deadly virus on Monday. While treating an Ebola patient, the patient gave a sudden movement and the needle on a blood-filled syringe pierced the three plastic gloves the medic was wearing, Bergmann said.

“The patient had a very high viral load and died the next day, which means that there was a very high risk of infection,” Bergmann was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

“The medical worker told us there was no puncture or scratch by the needle,” said Kwon Joon-wook, director general for health policy at the Ministry of Health. “There was no puncture wound or scratch on the surface, and the medical worker has shown no symptoms so far.”

Immediately after the contact, the medic followed the standard emergency protocol including placing the finger into a 5-percent chlorine solution for over 30 minutes, the Health Ministry also said.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever, or simply Ebola, is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids or tissues of infected animals or people.

Although the medic tested negative in the initial blood test, the incubation period of the virus is as long as 21 days and symptoms often start six to 12 days after exposure. A final diagnosis will be available later this month. The medic will remain under the German hospital’s supervision.

Should the medic develops symptoms, doctors could provide experimental drugs, Bergmann said.

He also said the Korean government and the medical worker requested that the medic’s anonymity would be protected, including his or her gender.

The Korean medical team left the country on Dec. 13 and received one week of training in Worcester, England.

BY SER MYO-JA, RHEE EASTER [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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