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Spanish nurse first to contract Ebola outside West Africa

Gerard Julien, AFP | A picture taken on August 7, 2014 shows the entrance to the Carlos III hospital in Madrid

Four people have been hospitalised in Spain to try to stem the spread of Ebola after a Spanish nurse became the first person in the world known to have contracted the virus outside of Africa, health authorities said.

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“The Spanish Health Minister, Ana Mato, has confirmed that a 44-year-old nurse has tested positive for the Ebola virus, and has confirmed that it is the first case of someone contracting that disease in Europe and outside of West Africa,” journalist Fiona Govan told FRANCE 24.

The nurse was admitted to hospital with a high fever on Monday morning where an initial test showed she had contracted Ebola. “Then a second test also confirmed she [had been infected with] the deadly virus,” Govan said.

She is now undergoing experimental treatment using antibodies from previously infected patients.

'first case of contraction outside of west africa'

The nurse’s husband is showing no symptoms of the disease but he was taken to hospital for close monitoring, health officials said on Tuesday. A health worker suffering from diarrhoea (but no fever) and a Spanish traveler returning from Nigeria were also hospitalised and placed under surveillance.

Twenty-two people who came into contact with the nurse in the past 10 days are also being monitored, said Rafael Perez-Santamaria, head of the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid. They have not been isolated but they are having their temperature taken twice a day to check for signs of infection.

Jonathan Ball, a professor of molecular virology at Britain’s University of Nottingham, said the nurse should not have contracted the deadly disease if appropriate containment and control measures had been taken.

"It will be crucial to find out what went wrong in this case so necessary measures can be taken to ensure it doesn't happen again," he told Reuters.

"This has taken us by surprise," said Perez-Santamaria. "We are revising our protocols, improving them."

Missionaries infected in West Africa

Prior to falling ill, the nurse, who works at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, had cared for two Ebola-infected men who had been repatriated to Spain after contracting the disease while working in West Africa. Both patients died from the virus.

Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, 75, was infected with Ebola in Liberia and died at the Spanish hospital on August 12.

Another Spanish missionary, Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, was repatriated from Sierra Leone and died at the same hospital on September 25.

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.

According to Govan, Spanish authorities have called on the public to stay calm. 

The Ebola virus causes fever, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and sometimes internal and external bleeding.

The current epidemic that has been ravaging West Africa is the worst outbreak of the disease yet, killing almost 3,500 people since the start of the year, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone worst hit.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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