The Scottish nurse who contracted Ebola on an aid mission to Sierra Leone has been discharged from hospital after being declared free of the virus.

Pauline Cafferkey said she was “happy to be alive” and praised staff at London’s Royal Free Hospital, who she said saved her life.

Only three weeks ago her condition was described as critical.

Ms Cafferkey, 39, from Cambuslang in South Lanarkshire, was diagnosed with Ebola after returning to Glasgow from Sierra Leone in December.

She was one of the first wave of NHS volunteers, flown out to West Africa in November, to join the fight against the Ebola outbreak, and worked at a Save the Children treatment centre in Kerry Town.

After being admitted to Glasgow’s Gartnavel Hospital on 29 December, she was transferred to the Royal Free’s high level isolation unit (HLIU), where she has been treated for more than three weeks.

Speaking after leaving hospital today she said: “I am just happy to be alive.

“I still don’t feel 100 per cent. I feel quite weak, but I’m looking forward to going home. I want to say a big thank you to the staff who treated me – they were amazing. They were always very reassuring and I knew I was in the best hands. They saved my life.”

Less than a week after being admitted to the Royal Free, the hospital reported that her condition had deteriorated to a critical state. However, two weeks ago doctors said her condition had improved. She has now been declared free of the virus.

Dr Michael Jacobs, the infectious disease expert who led the team caring for Ms Cafferkey, said: “We are delighted that Pauline has recovered and is now well enough to go home. I am very proud of the staff who have been caring for her. It is because of the skill and hard work of the entire team that she is now able to go home.”

Although she was treated in an isolation tent, she was able to speak to family members through a window via an intercom system. She was also provided with iPad by the Royal Free Charity.

“As I was beginning to recover, I listened to lots of music when I was in the HLIU and that was a massive help,” she said. “I also had lots of Irn-Bru to help me through!”

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “delighted” that Ms Cafferkey could now return home.

“Her selflessness and courage are remarkable and she represents the very best of NHS values,” he said. “I would like to thank all the staff at the Royal Free who have worked tirelessly to provide her with world class care and treatment.”

West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, which has killed 8,675 people in little more than a year, remains a major threat, but there have been hopeful signs that the epidemic may be abating.

The World Health Organisation said last week that a “turning point” had been reached with the number of new cases falling in all three affected countries, with just eight cases detected in Liberia in the week ending 18 January – down from a peak of 509 in September. Cases in Sierra Leone remain high, at 117 per week, but this is also a major improvement on the peak of 748.

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