Pauline Cafferkey, far left in the purple shirt, was a 2015 Pride of Britain award winner. She traveled to 10 Downing Street on September 29 for the awards ceremony and met with Samantha Cameron, wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron. (Photo: WPA Pool/Getty Images)
A British nurse who recovered from Ebola last year has been hospitalized for late and reportedly serious complications from the disease.
Pauline Cafferkey was flown from her home in Scotland to a London hospital early Friday, where she is being treated in an isolation unit, ABC News reports.
Officials say it’s unlikely that Cafferkey will transmit the virus to others, but they are monitoring people she had close contact with.
Ebola, a deadly disease caused by infection with a strain of the Ebola virus, dominated international news last year into early spring. The disease spreads through human-to-human or surface-to-human transmission (from bedding, clothing, etc.) via direct contact with blood or bodily fluids.
The 2014 Ebola epidemic, which impacted several countries in West Africa and even surfaced in the U.S., was the largest in history, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The epidemic killed more than 11,200 people in West Africa.
While it’s unusual for Ebola to resurface in a patient, it has happened in the recent past. Ebola survivor Ian Crozier, MD, made headlines in May after one of his eyes changed color two months after he recovered from the disease. Upon examination, doctors discovered that his eye was “teeming” with Ebola.
Crozier’s and Cafferkey’s situations are rare, but board-certified infectious disease specialist Amesh A. Adalja, MD, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, tells Yahoo Health that experts have discovered that there are lingering — and often serious — symptoms from the disease for survivors.
“We’re just beginning to learn the long-term effects of Ebola,” Adalja says. “But we’re seeing it more and more.”
Patients may be left with muscle aches and pain, eye problems, ringing in the ears, and hearing loss after recovering from the disease, Adalja says.
Crozier has suffered from those symptoms, as well as seizures, which he detailed in a speech Wednesday. “It ain’t over, even when it’s over,” he said, per Live Science. Crozier also said that his vision has improved, but it’s still not back to where it was before his illness.
Eye issues can be particularly problematic for Ebola patients because, experts have discovered, eyes may be what Adalja calls a “sanctuary site,” meaning the virus can thrive there, even after the acute symptoms of the virus have passed.
It’s unlikely that Cafferkey contracted Ebola again, Adalja notes, since a person can’t contract the same strain of Ebola twice. But there are limitations. Ebola patients develop immunity from the specific strain of Ebola they had; however, there are five strains of Ebola.
“We also don’t know how long that immunity lasts,” says Adalja, adding that experts believe it can be for five to 10 years after a person contracts the disease.
Ebola sufferers may have some relief in the form of medicines like anti-inflammatories and steroids to treat their particular symptoms, but the after-effects of the disease can linger and become life-altering.
Says Adalja, “They may go away over time, but they can be chronic and debilitating.”
Read This Next: How a Tick Bite Left This Woman a Quadruple Amputee