UK Ebola patient home for treatment, four more for monitoring

LONDON (Reuters) - A British military healthcare worker who tested positive for Ebola in Sierra Leone is being flown back to Britain along with four others who do not have the disease but need precautionary monitoring, health officials said on Thursday.

The unnamed healthcare worker who has Ebola was transported in a specially equipped medical plane and will be treated in an isolation unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London, the country's designated Ebola treatment center.

Two of the four close contacts who have not tested positive for the disease will be monitored at the Royal Free, while the other two will be flown back to Newcastle, northern England, and monitored at the city's Royal Victoria Infirmary.

The healthcare worker who has tested positive was exposed to the virus in a frontline care facility for Ebola patients.

Britain, the former colonial ruler of Sierra Leone, has between 600 and 700 military personnel deployed in the West African country to help combat the epidemic.

Ebola has now killed more than 10,000 people in the three worst-affected countries, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Rates of new infections have come down swiftly in recent months, however. Liberia last week released its last known Ebola patient from hospital, but Sierra Leone still had 127 patients in Ebola treatment centers as of March 10.

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon and Kate Kelland; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)