Spain is urgently compiling a list of people who had contact with the nurse who became the first case of an Ebola infection outside Africa when she was diagnosed in Madrid yesterday.
The government is taking action to keep doctors and staff safe at Hospital Carlos III, and is investigating how the woman became infected, Health Minister Ana Mato said at a news conference yesterday. The nurse treated Manuel Garcia, a priest who died of Ebola last month, at the hospital. Her husband and thirty medical workers are being monitored, officials said.
The diagnosis adds a new dimension to the outbreak, which has killed more than 3,400 people, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. A man is hospitalized with Ebola in Dallas after traveling there from the Liberian capital Monrovia, the first time the virus has been inadvertently carried out of Africa in the almost 40 years since it was discovered.
“The concern in European hospitals where there’s good infection control is minimal,” David Heymann, professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said in a telephone interview. “It may spread to a few people at the start, but it shouldn’t go further. I don’t anticipate any major outbreaks in Europe.”
Stocks of Spanish hotel operators fell in Madrid. NH Hotel Group SA fell as much as 4.8 percent and Melia Hotels International SA fell as much as 3.3 percent.
The nurse had been in contact with other people and those contacts would have to be followed, Fernando Simon, coordinator of the center of alerts and emergencies at Spain’s health ministry, told Cadena Ser radio today. The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected patient, including a deceased person.
“We can’t put a blindfold on,” Simon said, according to comments published by Ser on its website today. “The possibility of contagion exists — it’s low, but it exists.”
The nurse is in stable condition, and her life isn’t at risk at the moment, Simon said. It may have been possible to isolate the patient on Sept. 30 when she showed her first symptoms, Simon said.
“In the case of a person under monitoring, perhaps an isolation protocol should have been applied,” Simon said, according to SER.
Aid workers who have fallen ill in Africa have been evacuated to Spain, France, Germany, the U.S. and Norway for treatment, raising concern that secondary infections will occur in those countries. Garcia, a missionary doctor, died at Carlos III hospital on Sept. 25 after being repatriated from Sierra Leone. Miguel Pajares, a priest who contracted the illness in Liberia, died at the hospital in August.
Nursing unions in Madrid called on the government to reassure patients and staff and carry out investigations as quickly as possible to find out how the infection occurred.
“We demand all the information so that the general public and nursing professionals can be assured of their safety,” said Juan Carlos Mejia, secretary of union action at the Madrid branch of the nursing union SATSE.
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