Spanish nurse with Ebola sparks fears for Europe

2014-10-08 08:55

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Madrid – Doctors in Spain hospitalised four more people and rushed to identify dozens of others at risk after a nurse was infected with the deadly Ebola virus, raising fears of contagion in Europe.

The European Union demanded answers about how the disease spread in a specialised disease unit, while health staff protested over safety failures.

The nurse was yesterday identified by Spanish media as Teresa Romero, a woman in her forties who worked at Madrid’s La Paz-Carlos III hospital.

She became the first person to contract the disease outside Africa after caring for two elderly Spanish missionaries who died from the virus following their return from West Africa where the disease has killed nearly 3 500 people.

Officials said they were trying to find out who she came into contact with before being isolated on Monday. They were monitoring 52 people – mostly health staff.

“It would be very naive to think that there is no possibility of contagion,” the government’s health emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon said.

Doctors at the hospital said her husband was also at “high risk” and was put in isolation. Another “suspect case” – a Spanish engineer recently returned from Nigeria – was also being monitored.

Another two patients were colleagues of the nurse.

One of them was taken in for observation after suffering from diarrhoea, the hospital said.

The other is a nurse who was in contact with the infected health worker, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported, adding that she was hospitalised by precaution because she was running a mild fever.

The infected nurse treated Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, (75) who contracted Ebola in Liberia and died on August 12, as well as Manuel Garcia Viejo (69) who was repatriated from Sierra Leone and died on September 25.

She is believed to have caught the virus while caring for Garcia Viejo.

The European Commission has written to the Spanish health ministry demanding an explanation.

“There is obviously a problem somewhere,” commission spokesperson Frederic Vincent said, at a time when all European Union member states were supposed to have taken measures to prevent an Ebola outbreak.

However Peter Piot, one of the scientists who discovered Ebola, said while the disease posed a threat to healthcare workers around the world, there was “no risk that I see for outbreaks” in developed countries.

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