Ebola monitoring rises as Spain tries to contain health crisis

Spanish government is under fire for its handling both of her case and the threat of a wider outbreak of the deadly disease.

Ebola monitoring rises as Spain tries to contain health crisis

World Bulletin/News Desk

Three more people have been hospitalized in Madrid, bringing to 16 the number of people under observation after a Spanish nurse came down with Ebola.

None of the 16 has been diagnosed with Ebola so far, but the Spanish government is under fire for its handling both of her case and the threat of a wider outbreak of the deadly disease.

The nurse, 44-year-old Teresa Romero, remains in serious condition after taking a turn for the worse two days ago. She was diagnosed with Ebola after caring for two priests who had contracted the disease in Africa and were then repatriated to Spain. Both men died, one in August and one in September.

"Teresa Romero's condition has undergone no significant changes and is still serious, but stable," a newly established government Ebola committee said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.

The latest outbreak of the disease has already killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in West Africa. Romero is the only person known to have been infected with Ebola outside Africa, but her case has raised fears about contagion in Europe and elsewhere.

"The big problem is in West Africa where the doubling rate is every four weeks and it really is going up and up, so it will not be surprising if we have spillover into this country," said Sally Davies, Britain's chief medical officer.

"I would expect a handful of cases over the next few months," Davies told BBC TV after an eight-hour nationwide drill to test the country's readiness to deal with an Ebola outbreak.

Britain has said it will start screening passengers for Ebola who enter the country through London's two main airports and by railway from continental Europe. The United States on Saturday began screening travellers from West Africa at New York's John F. Kennedy International airport.

Spain's government tightened Ebola detection protocols on Friday and tasked Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria with responding to the health crisis, five days after the contagion was confirmed.

Three more people who came into contact with Romero in Spain - a hairdresser, another nurse and a cleaner - were admitted to the isolation unit at the Carlos III hospital on Friday evening. The 13 already under observation include Romero's husband.

Citing medical sources, some Spanish media reported on Saturday that Romero was conscious and talking to doctors.

An experimental treatment, ZMab, is available in Spain for use in her case, a health source said. However, it was not clear whether she was now being given the drug. She was given antibodies from previously infected patients earlier this week.

The ZMab combination drug, made by Canada-based company Defyrus Inc., is one of the agents used to make ZMapp, another treatment, which was developed by MappBiopharmaceutical Inc. ZMapp has been used on some Ebola sufferers, a number of whom survived, but available supplies are exhausted.

Hospital authorities and the government declined to comment.


Amid disquiet in Spain over how the virus could have spread, some government officials initially deflected blame to the nurse, Romero, seizing on her admission that she may have touched her face with the gloves of her protective suit.

Angry health workers jeered Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday as he visited the hospital, throwing surgical gloves at his car. Unions and the public have also laid into the government for its sluggish response.

Romero remained undiagnosed for days despite reporting she had a fever, one of the symptoms of Ebola.

"The bad way this crisis was handled by politicians proved fertile ground for panic," El Mundo newspaper said on an editorial on Saturday. It described the case of one school that wanted a nurse to keep her child away, because she worked in another Madrid hospital where Romero was first admitted.

Protesters calling for Spain's health minister, Ana Mato, to resign were expected to gather in central Madrid on Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, dozens of animal rights campaigners protested in several cities because the Madrid government had Romero's pet dog, Excalibur, put down this week, fearing it could spread the disease.

Three hairdressers were among those under observation on Saturday, after Romero visited a salon for a beauty treatment before she was diagnosed.

Patients also included five doctors, a hospital porter and four nurses, one of whom had also cared for one of the repatriated priests. She tested negative for Ebola in an initial examination, and the results of a final test were expected on Saturday.

A man on one of fifth-floor hospital wards cleared for the patients under observation could be seen at a window on Saturday, smiling and waving a banner which read 36.1 degrees celsius - meaning he has no fever.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Ekim 2014, 22:39

Muhammed Öylek