Health workers protest outside La Paz Hospital calling for Spain's Health Minister Ana Mato to resign / Reuters

EU seeks ‘clarification’ on how health worker contracted the virus

Health officials in Madrid sought to allay fears over Ebola today after announcing that in addition to the nurse who was reported on Monday night to have contracted the disease, three people are in quarantine because of potential contagion and a further 52 are being monitored.

Late on Monday it was revealed that a 40-year-old nurse who helped to care for one of the two Spanish missionaries who died of Ebola after being flown back to Spain for treatment earlier this year, is the first case of transmission outside West Africa in the current outbreak of the disease.

The three now in quarantine in northern Madrid’s Carlos III hospital are the nurse’s husband, a man who recently travelled to Spain from Nigeria and one of the nurse’s co-workers. It was reported last night that the nurse’s colleague had tested negative for the disease. A fifth individual, a doctor, was tested for Ebola overnight on Monday but was quickly given the all-clear.

Spain’s Public Health Director, Mercedes Vinuesa, said that officials were drawing up a list of people who may have had contact with the as yet unnamed nurse.

After being moved to the Carlos III very early yesterday morning, she is now being treated with antibodies from previously infected survivors of the disease. She is said to be in a stable condition.

The 52 further individuals being monitored are all medical staff who either treated the nurse in the hospital in Alcorcón – a large town south- west of Madrid where she was originally admitted – or at the Carlos III.

ebola.jpgWhile the search for further individuals who had come into contact with the nurse continues, it has been confirmed that despite beginning a holiday on 25 September, the nurse did not leave her home near Madrid.

After sitting for an exam for an internal promotion during her time off work, the nurse began feeling unwell on about 30 September, suffering from a fever, before being diagnosed with Ebola on Monday.

The European Commission has sent a letter asking for clarification how she actually became infected, and yesterday the Spanish government came under domestic pressure to explain how the nurse had contracted the virus.

Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato during a meeting on Ebola in Madrid on Tuesday (EPA)

Members of opposition parties called for the resignation of the Health Minister, Ana Mato – a demand echoed by health workers protesting outside one hospital in Madrid yesterday – and for the minister to make a full statement on the case in Parliament. “The management of our health service has failed,” Gaspar Llamazares, an MP for the hard-left Izquierda Unida coalition, claimed.

Members of one health workers’ trade union, meanwhile, argued that the protection suits that they used while handling Ebola cases were not of the maximum standard possible and that they believe Carlos III’s infrastructure for handling such diseases had suffered from recent cutbacks. An investigation has now opened into exactly how the nurse, reported to have 15 years’ experience as a health worker, caught Ebola despite all the precautions.

Contacted by phone by the newspaper El Mundo today while in quarantine, the nurse’s husband said that she was progressing favourably. He also claimed that she “did everything she had been told to” regarding medical protocol while treating the Ebola victim.