A Spanish nurse who helped treat a priest dying from Ebola last month has been hospitalized after testing positive twice for the virus.
“She is a health professional who was attending patients with the same disease at La Paz Carlos III Hospital. Before anything, let me assure you that we are working diligently with Madrid to find the people who may have had contact with her,” Director of National Pubic Health Maria Sebastian said at a press conference according to NBC News.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization’s European director said similar cases were “quite unavoidable.”
The nurse is the first person to contract Ebola outside western Africa.
An additional 30 health care workers who were in contact with the missionary priest, Manuel Garcia Viejo, who had worked in western Africa, are now under observation. Officials are also working to locate those with whom the nurse came into contact while she was on vacation.
“All medical personnel that made contact with Viejo has been under direct supervision and is having their temperature taken twice a day for a 21 day period,” Madrid Director for Public Health Dr. Antonio Alemany said.
So far, her only symptom is a high fever, but officials note that’s a key sign of Ebola. As medical officials evaluate a treatment plan for the nurse, health ministry officials are working to determine how the nurse became infected; according to officials she treated the priest once and cleaned out his room after he died.
Hospital protocol required protective clothing and staff members were directly supervised upon interacting with the quarantined patient.
While the nurse is the first person to contract the disease outside western Africa, she isn’t the first person to develop symptoms outside the country after being exposed in Africa.
A man came down with the virus in Dallas, Texas, after contracting the illness while in Liberia and traveling to the United States. He’s currently in critical, but stable, condition and “fighting for his life,” according to CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden.
The president spoke on Tuesday about Ebola, calling it a “top national security priority” and “not just a matter of charity.”
“We have learned some lessons, though, in terms of what happened in Dallas,” he said, explaining that the White House was working on communicating to hospitals and clinics on how to handle possible Ebola infections.
“So we’re going to be reaching out not only to governors and mayors and public health officials in states all across the country,” he said. “We want to continue to figure out how we can get the word out everywhere so that everybody understands exactly what is needed to be done.”