Anger was growing in Spain today over how a nurse became infected with Ebola as it was claimed the protective suits given to health officials were not good enough. Four suspected Ebola patients are now in hospital in Madrid after the nurse was confirmed as the first person to catch the virus outside of West Africa. The escalation in Spain’s Ebola outbreak comes as officials revealed 30 people were being monitored for symptoms, including the woman’s husband.
It has also since emerged that a week before she tested positive for Ebola she had contacted health workers to complain of a fever and fatigue, telling them she had helped treat two priests who contracted Ebola in Africa and were repatriated to Spain. But it wasn’t until she went to her local hospital on Monday that she was finally admitted and tested for the virus. It is not the same hospital where she worked, raising questions over the number of people she has come into contact with.
Meanwhile the World Health Organisation warned that it is ‘unavoidable’ more cases will be diagnosed in Europe.WHO’s European director Zsuzsanna Jakab said further such events were ‘unavoidable’. She said: ‘Such imported cases and similar events as have happened in Spain will happen also in the future, most likely. ‘It is quite unavoidable… that such incidents will happen in the future because of the extensive travel both from Europe to the affected countries and the other way around.’
‘It will happen,’ she added. ‘But the most important thing in our view is that Europe is still at low risk and that the western part of the European region particularly is the best prepared in the world to respond to viral hemorrhagic fevers including Ebola.’ Officials have said they ‘don’t know’ how the Spanish nurse became infected with the deadly virus. But last night staff at the Carlos III hospital where she worked claimed the protective suits they were given were not good enough.
Unnamed sources told Spanish daily El Pais the suits did not meet World Health Organisation standards. They said the suits they were issued with were permeable and lacked breathing apparatus. ‘At the moment we are investigating the way in which the professional was infected,’ said Antonio Alemany, the head of Madrid’s primary health care services. ‘We don’t know yet what failed,’ he was quoted by the Guardian as saying. ‘We’re investigating the mechanism of infection.’
Mercedes Vinuesa, the head of Spain’s public health service, told parliament today that the nurse’s husband had been placed in quarantine. Although he has shown no signs of Ebola, the measures have been taken as a precaution. In addition, a second nurse who also treated the priest who died on September 25 was put into quarantine after experiencing diarrhea
but she did not have a fever, the most common initial symptom for Ebola.
The 44-year-old nurse is said to have spent the last 15 years working at Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital, where two Spanish missionaries infected with Ebola died. She was part of the team that treated Spanish priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, who was brought back from Africa last month so that he could be treated for the deadly virus.
News of the quarantines has hit Spain’s stock market. It is one of Europe’s biggest tourist destinations and stocks in companies such as airlines and hotel chains fell on the Madrid stock exchange.