MADRID health professionals are blaming a failure to follow protocols and substandard equipment for Europe’s first case of Ebola.
A Spanish nurse at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital has twice tested positive for the disease in the first case of Ebola outside west Africa.
It is believed she contracted the disease while treating a patient repatriated from Sierra Leone, who died four days after his repatriation on September 20.
She was also part of the team attending to a second missionary, who was repatriated from Liberia in August, who died five days after his repatriation in August.
Her husband has also now been admitted to hospital for testing, as well as a second nurse from the same team that treated both repatriated Ebola victims.
Staff at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital are blaming the protective suits they were given, which they claim did not meet standards set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WHO specifies that the suits must be impermeable and include breathing apparatus, but staff insisted that they did not have their own breathing equipment.
Latex gloves secured with adhesive tape were also highlighted as an example of how the suits were not impermeable.
Staff also complained that waste from the rooms of both patients was removed in the personnel elevator and, in the case of the second patient, the hospital was not evacuated.
The European Commission has written to the Spanish health minister demanding ‘clarification’ on how the infection was able to spread when all EU member states were supposed to have taken measures to prevent transmission.
Commission spokesperson Frederic Vincent said: “There is obviously a problem somewhere.”
But Spain’s health authorities insist the staff would have followed WHO protocols.
Antonio Alemany, from the regional government of Madrid, said the nurse would have entered Garcia Viejo’s room only two times, and would have always been wearing protective equipment.
“We don’t know yet what failed,” added Alemany. “We are investigating the mechanism of infection.”
The nurse was first tested at the Alcorcon hospital – on the outskirts of Madrid – before being transferred to Carlos III early on Tuesday morning.
“We are drawing up a list of all the people she may have been in contact with, including with health professionals at the Alcorcon hospital,” added Alemany.
Health authorities are monitoring more than 50 possible contacts of the nurse.
Zsuzsanna Jakab, the regional director of the WHO in Europe, said that Ebola would ‘most likely’ spread, but the continent is well prepared to control it.
“It will happen,” she said. “But the most important thing in our view is that Europe is still at low risk and that the western part of the European region particularly is the best prepared in the world to respond to viral haemorrhagic fevers including Ebola.”