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Global: WHO warns of Ebola health care risks


(Source: BBC 2014-10-08)

A prominent World Health Organization adviser has warned that more Ebola cases can be expected among medical staff - even in developed countries with modern health care systems.

Professor Peter Piot said he was not surprised that a Spanish nurse had contracted the disease.

The nurse has become the first person known to have contracted the deadly virus outside West Africa.

She treated two Spanish missionaries who died of Ebola in Madrid.

The nurse, identified in media reports as Teresa Romero, looked after the pair after they were repatriated from West Africa.

She remains in quarantine in the Spanish capital along with her husband and three other people. Another 50 people in Spain are being monitored.

The nurse told Spains El Mundos newspaper on Wednesday that she had followed the correct protocol and had “no idea” how she had become infected. She said she was feeling “a little better” but was very tired.

The fifth person to be placed under quarantine - who is reported to be a friend of the infected nurse and also a member of the Ebola care unit at the same hospital - was admitted on Wednesday morning with a slight fever.

The BBCs Lucy Williamson in Madrid says hospital staff reported scenes of panic at work on Tuesday, with some people crying and others leaving the premises.

Spanish media say neighbours of the infected nurse have been calling emergency services, asking how to protect their children after sharing lifts and public spaces.

In another development, the womans husband is reported to be fighting a court order to have their pet dog put down over fears that it could be carrying the disease. Animal rights groups have also criticised the move, saying there is no evidence that Ebola has been spread by dogs.

Some 3,400 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak with most of the deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Dangerous moment

The BBCs Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says that from the start of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasised the impoverished health care systems of the countries hardest hit: Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

Its experts have insisted that modern hospitals with rigorous disease control measures would prevent infection - but our correspondent says the case of the Madrid nurse proves that is far more difficult than many thought.

Professor Piot, a world specialist in Ebola brought in by the WHO as a scientific adviser, warned that even the simplest movement, like rubbing your eyes, is a risk. “The smallest mistake can be fatal,” he said.

“For example, a very dangerous moment is when you come out of the isolation unit you take off your protective gear, you are full of sweat and so on.”

Professor Piot said he was not surprised by the case of the nurse in Madrid and expected more cases in Europe and the US, although he does not expect to see the illness spread as rapidly as it has in Africa.

Many of those who have died of Ebola in West Africa have been health care workers.

Dire consequences

Meanwhile the US military is stepping up its efforts to respond to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Liberias ambassador to the US, Jeremiah Sulunteh, told the BBC more treatment centres and ambulances were desperately needed.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned of dire consequences for economies in the region if the virus continues to spread.

The European Commission has asked Spain to explain how Ms Romero, a 40-year-old auxiliary nurse, could have become infected. A hospital investigation is under way.

She was one of about 30 staff at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid who had been treating priests Manuel Garcia Viejo and Miguel Pajares.

She is believed to have caught the virus while caring for Mr Garcia Viejo, 69, who died at the hospital on 25 September after catching Ebola in Sierra Leone. Mr Pajares, 75, died in August after contracting the virus in Liberia.

Ms Romero had twice gone into the room where Mr Garcia Viejo had been treated, to be directly involved in his care and to disinfect the room after his death, officials said.

More Information on BBC