Spanish authorities are investigating a hospital in Madrid after a nurse became the first person known to have contracted the deadly Ebola virus outside West Africa.
The nurse had treated two Spanish missionaries who died of the disease after being flown home from the region.
Three other people, including the nurse’s husband, have been quarantined.
The European Commission has asked Spain to explain how the nurse could have become infected.
Some 3,400 people have died in the outbreak – mostly in West Africa.
The Spanish auxiliary nurse, a 40-year-old woman who has not been named, was one of about 30 staff at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid who had been treating priests Manuel Garcia Viejo and Miguel Pajares, officials say.
Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, died at the hospital on September 25 after catching Ebola in Sierra Leone. Miguel Pajares, 75, died in August after contracting the virus in Liberia.
The nurse had twice gone into the room where Manuel Garcia Viejo had been treated, to be directly involved in his care and to disinfect the room after his death. Both times she was wearing protective clothing.
Madrid healthcare director Antonia Alemany told reporters that according to the information available: “The nurse went into the room wearing the individual protection gear and there’s no knowledge of an accidental exposure to risk.”
The Spanish nurse was one of about 30 staff at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid who had been treating priests Manuel Garcia Viejo and Miguel Pajares
Shortly afterwards the nurse went on holiday, a hospital spokesman said, but fell ill on September 30 and was admitted to Alcorcon hospital in south-west Madrid on October 5 after being tested positive for Ebola.
Early on Tuesday she was moved under police escort to Carlos III hospital in the capital and is said to be in a stable condition.
The Spanish health authorities say she is being treated with a drip using antibodies from previous Ebola patients.
Her husband and a second nurse who treated the missionary are now in quarantine, officials said, as well as a man who recently arrived on a flight from Nigeria.
Doctors are also monitoring 22 people who the nurse had contact with at Alcorcon hospital, and 30 people working at Carlos III, according to health sources quoted by Spanish newspaper El Pais.
They include an ambulance crew, and doctors and nurses, and have all been contacted by the health authorities.
It was not clear where the nurse had gone on holiday.
It is also unclear how she could have contracted Ebola.
The hospital was reported to have had extreme protective measures in place including two sets of overalls, gloves and goggles.
However, health workers told El Pais newspaper that the clothing did not have level-four biological security, which is fully waterproof and with independent breathing apparatus.
Instead it was level two, the paper says, as photographs provided by staff indicated that the overalls did not allow for ventilation and the gloves were made of latex and bound with adhesive tape.
President Barack Obama has announced the US measures to combat the Ebola virus as he called the outbreak in West Africa “a threat to global security”.
“The world is looking to the United States,” Barack Obama said, but added the outbreak required a “global response”.
The measures announced included ordering 3,000 US troops to the region and building new healthcare facilities.
Ebola has killed 2,461 people this year, about half of those infected, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The announcement comes as UN officials have called the outbreak a health crisis “unparalleled in modern times”.
Among the measures announced by Barack Obama on September 16:
Building 17 healthcare facilities, each with 100 beds and isolation spaces, in Liberia
Training as many as 500 health care workers a week
Developing an air bridge to get supplies into affected countries faster
Provide home health care kits to hundreds of thousands of households, including 50,000 that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will deliver to Liberia this week
Ebola only spreads in close contact but there is no cure and no vaccine. The outbreak began in Guinea before spreading to its neighbors Sierra Leone and Liberia.
President Barack Obama has announced the US measures to combat the Ebola virus as he called the outbreak in West Africa a threat to global security
Barack Obama said the outbreak had reached epidemic proportions in West Africa, as the disease “completely overwhelmed” hospitals and clinics and people were “literally dying on the streets”.
He called on other countries to step up their response, as a worsening outbreak would lead to “profound political, economic and security” issues.
There’s a “potential threat to global security if these countries break down”, he said, which would impact on everyone.
“The world knows how to fight this disease. We know if we take the proper steps we can save lives. But we have to work fast,” Barack Obama said.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the 3,000 troops would not provide direct care to Ebola patients. Some soldiers would be stationed at an intermediate base in Senegal, while others will provide logistical, training and engineering support at locations in Liberia.
Also on September 16, a US congressional panel heard testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and Dr. Kent Brently, who recovered from an Ebola infection after receiving an experimental treatment for the disease.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told the committee 10 volunteers in a separate vaccine study had shown no ill effects from an early stage trial.
President Barack Obama will announce today his plans to send 3,000 troops to Liberia to help fight the Ebola virus, US officials say.
It is understood the US military will oversee building new treatment centers and help train medical staff.
There has been criticism of the slow international response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the worst-hit countries.
The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 2,400 people.
More than half of those killed by the virus have been in Liberia. The World Health Organization (WHO) warned recently that the country could see thousands of more cases.
UN officials will discuss the international response to the outbreak at a meeting in Geneva.
Barack Obama is planning to send 3,000 troops to Liberia to help fight the Ebola virus
US officials said the aim of the country’s anti-Ebola initiative is to:
Train up to 500 healthcare workers a week
Construct 17 healthcare facilities, each with about 100 beds
Establish a joint command based in Monrovia, Liberia, to co-ordinate between US and international relief efforts
Distribute home healthcare kits to thousands of households
Conduct a home and community-based campaign to train local people in how to handle patients
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has appealed directly to Barack Obama for help in tackling the outbreak.
Several disease experts have welcomed the US plan, though some also question its focus on Liberia.
“We should see all of West Africa now as one big outbreak,” says Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, quoted in The New York Times.
“It’s very clear we have to deal with all the areas with Ebola.”
Ebola spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments.
Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
Ebola first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, in Nzara, Sudan, and in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
Symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches. Typically, vomiting, diarrhea and rash follow, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), EVD outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90% and occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforests.
Ebola is one of the world’s most deadly viruses but is not airborne, so cannot be caught like flu, the virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are considered to be the natural host of the Ebola virus.
The Ebola outbreaks have a case fatality rate of up to 90 percent and occur primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa, near tropical rainforest (photo Getty Images)
Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. No licensed specific treatment or vaccine is available for use in people or animals.
Doctors say avoiding the Ebola virus should be quite easy if you follow these top tips:
Wash your hands regularly with soap and clean water – and use clean towels to dry them. This can be difficult in slum and rural areas where there is not always direct access to clean water – but it is an effective way to kill the virus. Ordinary soap is all that’s needed. Shaking hands should also generally be avoided, because Ebola spreads quickly when people come into contact with an infected person’s body fluids and symptoms take can take a while to show. Other forms of greeting are being encouraged.
No touching – if you suspect someone of having Ebola, do not touch them. This may seem cruel when you see a loved one in pain and you want to hug and nurse them, but body fluids – urine and stools, vomit, blood, nasal mucus, saliva, tears etc. – can all pass on the virus. An infected person’s symptoms include fever, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headache and fatigue – followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which may include blood. Encourage them to seek help from a medical professional or health centre as soon as possible. It is also advisable not to touch the clothes or bedclothes of Ebola patients. Medecins Sans Frontieres advises that such sheets and even mattresses be burnt.
Avoid dead bodies – if you think someone has died from Ebola, do not touch their body, even as part of a burial ceremony. When someone has died, you can still catch Ebola from their body as it ejects fluids that make it even more contagious than that of a sick person. Organize for a specialized team to deal with the body as quickly as possible as it is risky to leave a dead body for any length of time in a cramped living area.
Avoid bushmeat – hunting, touching and eating bushmeat such as bats, monkeys and chimpanzees, as scientists believe this is how the virus was first transmitted to humans. Even if a certain wild animal is a delicacy in your region, avoid it as its meat or blood may be contaminated. Make sure all food is cooked properly.
Don’t panic – spreading rumors increases fear. Do not be scared of health workers – they are there to help and a clinic is the best place for a person to recover – they will be rehydrated and receive pain relief. About half of the people infected in the current outbreak have died. There have been cases of medics being attacked and people being abandoned when they are suspected of having Ebola – even when they are suffering from something else. A belief in irrational traditional remedies has also exacerbated the spread of the virus.
Nigerian schools have been ordered to remain closed until October 13 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
The new academic year was due to start on Monday, September 1.
The education minister ordered the closures to allow staff to be trained on how to handle suspected Ebola cases.
Five people have died of Ebola in Nigeria. The West Africa outbreak has centered on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing more than 1,400 people.
It is the largest ever outbreak and has infected an estimated 2,615 people. About half of those infected have died.
The virus is spread between humans through direct contact with infected bodily fluids.
Nigerian schools have been ordered to remain closed until October 13 as part of measures to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus (photo Getty Images)
There is no cure for Ebola but with intensive care treatment and proper hydration, patients have a chance of survival.
It spread to Nigeria – Africa’s most populous country – in July, when a person infected with Ebola flew from Liberia to Lagos.
The Nigerian government says it hopes its efforts to contain the virus are working, as there is only one confirmed case of Ebola remaining.
“All state ministries of education are to immediately organize and ensure that at least two staff in each school, both private and public, are trained by appropriate health workers no later than 15 September 2014 on how to handle any suspected case of Ebola,” said Education Minister Ibrahim Shekarau.
“And also embark on immediate sensitization of all teaching and non-teaching staff in all schools on preventive measures,” he said.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has temporarily shut an Ebola testing laboratory in Kailahun in eastern Sierra Leone after a Senegalese health worker became infected with the virus.
There have been 392 Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone, according to the latest UN figures released on August 22. Kailahun is one of the worst-affected districts and is currently under blockade.
“It’s a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers,” a WHO spokesman is quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.
On Tuesday, the WHO said an “unprecedented” number of doctors and nurses had been infected with Ebola which was further impeding control efforts.
Infections were due to a shortage of protective equipment and staff, it said.
Only one or two doctors are available for 100,000 patients in some of the affected countries.