Spain has quarantined a total of four people in an attempt to prevent the spread of Ebola after a nurse became the first confirmed case of infection outside West Africa.
The 40-year-old nurse, her husband, another health worker and a Spaniard who travelled to Nigeria are in isolation in hospital, Madrid health officials said on Tuesday.
The husband shows no symptoms, and the health worker has diarrhoea but no fever. There was no information about the condition of the fourth person.
One of the four has tested negative for the disease, the Reuters news agency reported on Tuesday, citing a Spanish health official. It was not clear who of the four was tested.
Rafael Perez-Santamaria, the head of the Carlos III Hospital, said a further 22 people who had been in with the nurse contact were being monitored.
The nurse had treated a 75-year-old Spanish missionary who had caught the disease in Liberia, and a 69-year-old priest who caught Ebola in Sierra Leone. Both missionaries died, the first on August 12 and the second on September 25.
The nurse fell ill on September 30, and officials said she entered the room of the second patient twice.
“This has taken us by surprise,” said Perez-Santamaria. “We are revising our protocols, improving them. The priority remains to find out what actually happened.”
The health ministry’s chief coordinator for health alerts and emergencies, Fernando Simon, told local radio that there was a small chance that people who had come into contact with the nurse may have contracted the disease.
A small number of public health workers demonstrated in Madrid over the infection, and the danger faced by hospital staff.
“This is not a game to be played in the way they have done. It is a very worrying matter and they have not handled it correctly,” a nursing assistant at Madrid’s La Paz hospital, which one of the missionaries had visited.
A cardiologist at the hospital added: “We cannot understand how someone who was wearing a double protection suit and two pairs of gloves could have been contaminated.”
Health worker strike
The outbreak of Ebola, the worst on record, has infected at least 7,400 people, according to the World Health Organisation. At least 3,400 people have died of the disease in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the three countries most affected by the epidemic.
On Tuesday, UNICEF delivered 70 metric tonnes of supplies to Guinea to help the country combat Ebola, according to the Manuel Fontaine, the organisation’s regional director for West and Central Africa.
The supplies included protective equipment for health staff, basic drugs, nutrition, water and sanitation supplies, he said. Fontaine added that UNICEF had delivered 600 metric tonnes of supplies to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – the three countries hit-hardest by the Ebola outbreak – over the past two weeks.
Also on Tuesday teams in charge of burying bodies of Ebola victims in two Sierra Leone districts went on strike over the non-payment of their weekly risk allowences, the leaders of the groups say.
The two districts the teams cover include the capital city of Freetown.
“We have not been paid for two weeks and right now we need our money. We don’t even care if dead bodies have been littered all over the city, all we want is our money. We have been stigmatised in our communities, so let the government try to pay us our money,” said one of the burial team members, requesting anonymity.
Responding to the strike, Sierra Leone’s deputy health minister Madina Rahman said the teams had been paid through the end of September. They are only owed for this week, she said, and the money has been released to the banks and will be paid them later this week. She did not comment on the demand for risk pay.