By Fiona Govan, Madrid –
A Spanish nurse has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, in what is the first case of the virus being contracted outside of Africa.
The 44-year-old woman, whose name has not been made public, has tested positive to two tests, health authority sources confirmed.
She was admitted to a hospital near her home in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon with a high fever on Monday morning and was said to be in a “stable condition”.
Spain’s heath ministry confirmed that she was part of the medical team that treated Manuel Garcia Viejo, a Spanish missionary priest who died of the virus at a Madrid hospital 11 days ago after been evacuated from Sierra Leone.
Mr Garcia Viejo, 69, was the second person in Europe to die from Ebola after being repatriated from West Africa. He died on September 25, four days after being airlifted to Spain.
The first was Miguel Pajares, 75, a Spanish missionary priest who died on Aug 12 despite receiving the experimental ZMapp drug while he was being treated at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital after being repatriated from Liberia.
Both were members of the Hospital Order of San Juan de Dios, a Roman Catholic group that runs a charity working with Ebola victims in Africa.
Spain’s Ministry of Health called an emergency meeting on Monday evening before making a televised statement.
Authorities confirmed that 30 health workers who had been in contact with the missionary were now under observation and that they were working hard to determine who else may be at risk.
“All measures have been taken to give the best care to the patient, and guarantee the safety of all citizens,” Ana Mato, the Spanish Health Minister, said.
“We are working hard to verify the source of infection,” she added.
Antonio Alemany, head of health care for the Madrid region, explained that the infected nurse had not been into work since the day after the death of the second Spanish priest because she had been on annual leave. She had started to feel unwell on September 30, he said.
“We have already begun to determine all those who may have had contact with her during this period,” he said, adding that her husband was being monitored.
The hospital where the woman was being treated launched emergency protocol for dealing with contagious diseases.
The current Ebola outbreak is believed to have infected around 7,500 people and caused more than 3,400 people in West Africa according to estimates by the World Health Organisation, with Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea the worst hit.
The Ebola virus is not airborne and can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids – blood, sweat, vomit, feces, urine, saliva or semen – of an infected person who is showing symptoms.
It causes fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes internal and external bleeding.