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Ebola outbreak: Spanish nurse is first person to contract disease outside western Africa

The unnamed nurse became infected after being part of the team that treated Manuel Garcia Viejo - a priest who was brought home for treatment (above) but later died

Natasha Culzac
Tuesday 07 October 2014 14:52 BST
Spanish Ebola patient, Catholic priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, died after being repatriated from Sierra Leone on 22 September 2014
Spanish Ebola patient, Catholic priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, died after being repatriated from Sierra Leone on 22 September 2014 (REUTERS)

A Spanish nurse has become the first suspected person to have contracted the Ebola virus outside of western Africa.

The female medic was part of the team that treated a 69-year-old Spanish priest called Manuel Garcia Viejo, who died from the disease on 25 September.

The priest had been working as a missionary in Sierra Leone when he contracted Ebola and had been flown back to his home country for specialist treatment.

He was the second Spaniard to fall victim to the disease – the first was also a priest, called Miguel Pajares, 75, who died in August after working as a missionary in Liberia.

Spain’s Health Minister Ana Mato confirmed that the nurse was placed in isolation after attending the Alcorcon hospital on the outskirts of Madrid displaying a fever.

Local media in Spain is reporting that staff at the Madrid hospital where the nurse became infected have claimed that their protective suits did not meet health and safety requirements – though this has yet to be substantiated.

Two tests confirmed the positive result and a fever was her only symptom, it was revealed.

Spain’s Health Minister Ana Mato during the press conference today (AFP)

She is understood to be in a stable condition, Reuters reports, and reportedly began to feel ill on 30 September while on holiday.

Ms Mato added that the authorities were working to track down all those who came into contact with the unnamed nurse and that emergency procedures had been put in place to protect Spanish citizens.

Ebola is thought to have killed more than 3,400 people so far in the worst outbreak ever recorded, in figures by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Guidance published today by the WHO defines what it knows on the transmission of Ebola, reiterating that it is passed via “close and direct physical contact with infected bodily fluids, the most infectious being blood, faeces and vomit”.

It adds that the virus has also been found in breast milk, urine and semen and that in a recovering male can still be infectious in semen for at least 70 days.

“Saliva and tears may also carry some risk”, it adds, though “the science is inconclusive”.

Meanwhile, US officials today ruled out a travel ban to the worst-hit regions in Africa, but said it was looking into possibly stepping up screening measures at airports.

President Obama confirmed today that the authorities were working on additional procedures but that the chance of an outbreak in the US was "extremely low".

He added that foreign countries need to do more in the fight against the spread of Ebola and said he would pressure heads of states to "make sure that they are doing everything that they can to join us in this effort".

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