7 More People in Spain Enter Ebola Isolation
Policy + Politics

7 More People in Spain Enter Ebola Isolation


Seven people turned themselves in late on Thursday to an Ebola isolation unit in Madrid where Teresa Romero, the nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside Africa, lay gravely ill.

Alarm about Ebola's spread around Europe grew on Friday as Macedonia said it was checking for the virus in a British man who died within hours of being admitted to hospital in the capital Skopje on Thursday. A Prague hospital was testing a 56-year-old Czech man with symptoms of the virus.

Related: Ebola Patient Needs $500,000 to Cover Medical Bills

In Spain, recriminations mounted over Romero, who was infected in hospital as she treated two Spanish missionaries who had caught the hemorrhagic fever in West Africa - where Ebola has already killed around 4,000 people - and remained undiagnozed for days despite reporting her symptoms.

The seven new admissions included two hairdressers who had given Romero a beauty treatment before she was diagnosed with Ebola, and hospital staff who had treated the 44-year-old nurse. The Carlos III hospital said they had all turned themselves in voluntarily to be monitored for signs of the disease.

A hospital spokeswoman said there were now 14 people in the isolation unit on its sealed-off sixth floor, including Romero, her husband, and health workers who had cared for Romero since she was admitted on Monday. None had so far tested positive for the disease except Romero, whose condition was described by the hospital as serious but stable.

Pointing the Finger
The Ebola virus causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea and sometimes internal bleeding, and is spread through direct contact with body fluids. About half of those infected in West Africa have died.

Related: U.S. Is Trying to Stop An Ebola Pandemic

Spanish labor unions accused the government of seeking to deflect the blame onto Romero for the failings of its health system, after the European Union asked Spain to explain how the virus could have been spread on a high-security ward. 

The top regional health official in Madrid, Javier Rodriguez, has said Romero took too long to admit she had made a mistake by touching her face with the glove of her protective suit while taking it off. "She has taken days to recognize that she may have made a mistake when taking off the suit. If she had said it earlier, it would have saved a lot of work," he said in a radio interview.

El Mundo newspaper on Friday published a cartoon showing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and other officials of the ruling People's Party pointing at the nurse under the caption: "Protocol for passing on blame."

"They will find any way to blame her," Romero's brother, Jose Ramon, told the daily El Pais. "Basically, my sister did her job ... and she has become infected with Ebola."

Related: Can U.S. Prevent a Deadly Ebola Outbreak? 

One union representative said on Friday that health workers from doctors to ambulance drivers were worried about their lack of training in how to deal with Ebola patients.

"Finding staff to work voluntarily (in the isolation unit) is very difficult," said Jose Manuel Freire, spokesman for a health workers' union.