Ebola Virus Escapes Europe's Defenses

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

Ebola Virus Escapes Europe's Defenses


Byline: Associated Press

MADRID -- Health officials in Spain rushed to contain the Ebola virus Tuesday after it escaped Europe's defenses, quarantining four people at a Madrid hospital where a nursing assistant got infected and even getting a court order to kill the woman's dog.

The first case of Ebola transmitted outside Africa, where a monthslong outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people, is raising questions about how prepared wealthier countries really are. Health workers complained Tuesday that they lack the training and equipment to handle the virus, and the all-important tourism industry was showing its anxiety.

Medical officials in the United States, meanwhile, are retraining hospital staff and fine-tuning infection control procedures after the mishandling of a critically ill Liberian man in Texas, who might have exposed many others to the virus after being sent away by a hospital.

In Africa, the U.S. military was preparing to open a 25-bed mobile hospital catering to health care workers with Ebola, before building a total of 17 promised 100-bed Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia. The virus has taken an especially devastating toll on health care workers, sickening or killing more than 370 in the hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, where doctors and nurses were already in short supply.

And as the disease moved from a seemingly distant continent to the doorsteps of the world's largest economies, government leaders faced growing pressure to ramp up responses. Spanish opposition parties called for the resignation of Health Minister Ana Mato, and the European Union demanded answers to what went wrong.

Obama administration spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that more passenger screening measures would be announced "in the next couple of days," even though the White House remains "confident in the screening measures that are currently in place."

The nursing assistant in Madrid was part of a special team caring for a Spanish priest who died of Ebola last month after being evacuated from Sierra Leone. The nursing assistant wore a hazmat suit both times she entered his room, officials said, and no records point to any accidental exposure to the virus, which spreads through direct contact with the bodily fluids of a sickened person.

The woman, who had been on vacation in the Madrid area after treating the priest, was diagnosed with Ebola on Monday after coming down with a fever, and was said to be stable Tuesday. Her husband also was isolated as a precaution. Another quarantined nurse tested negative, but a man who traveled in Nigeria remained in isolation.

Madrid's regional government even got a court order to euthanize and incinerate their pet, Excalibur, against the couple's objections, without even testing the animal. …

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