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Hospital worker: Spaniard exposed in ER for 8 hours after positive Ebola test

Spain monitors three possible Ebola cases
Spain monitors three possible Ebola cases

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Story highlights

  • A nurse's assistant got infected while caring for an Ebola patient in Madrid
  • Spokeswoman: This woman sought treatment twice, got sent home both times
  • She was admitted to hospital a third time; waited hours for transfer, worker says
  • 5 are with her in a hospital; dozens of others are being monitored for Ebola
Teresa Romero Ramos sought out help three times.
Finally, one week after first seeing a doctor, Romero found out why she felt so sick: She had Ebola.
Even after her Ebola test came back positive at Madrid's Alcorcon hospital, Romero had to wait.
According to a worker at that hospital, Romero lay in the emergency room -- exposed to other patients as well as medical staff, going back and forth -- for eight hours before being transferred to a hospital in the Spanish capital that specializes in infectious diseases.
While Romero was "doing better" Wednesday, according to a regional health spokesman said Wednesday, parts of Spain's medical establishment is looking worse and worse the more that comes out about what she's gone through from how she contracted Ebola to how her case has been handled.
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Recorded cases of Ebola
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Her plight can also be compared to that of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian citizen who was sent home from a Dallas, Texas, hospital days before eventually being admitted for Ebola. Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, died on Wednesday.
Speaking about what's unfolding in Madrid, Health Minister Ana Mato told Parliament that Spain is going to revise its protocols for handling Ebola.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy also said that his country is "facing a matter that is of international concern." But that doesn't mean Spaniards should hunker down or become overly alarmed, urging them to "keep calm."
"I would like to ask you to allow the health workers to work," he said. "The Spanish health system is one of the best in the world."
1st person to contract Ebola outside Africa
The Ebola virus has been voracious, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing at least 3,800, according to the World Health Organization. It's also been largely confined, with every person catching the disease in West Africa.
Until Romero.
She is the first person to contract the deadly virus outside Africa. Dr. German Ramirez, who is among those treating her, said the nurse's assistant at Madrid's Carlos III hospital may have been exposed while removing protective gear she'd donned to treat a Spanish missionary infected with Ebola in West Africa.
"That's what we were working on -- on the errors possibly made while removing the protective suit," Ramirez told reporters, saying it's possible the protective suit or gloves may have touched her face.
Angry doctors and nurses outside Carlos III Hospital said Tuesday they were outraged that two missionaries -- Miguel Pajares and Manuel Garcia Viejo, were almost dead when they arrived -- had been brought to the hospital. Both priests ended up dying at the Madrid hospital.
That Romero may have gotten Ebola while doing her job is a major cause of concern, especially if she did -- as she told Spanish newspaper El Mundo -- follow the necessary protocols while caring for the missionary.
So, too, is how her treatment was handled afterward.
According to a Carlos III hospital spokeswoman, who isn't named as is customary in Spain, Romero started feeling ill on September 29. She went the next day to her doctor, who did not properly identify her problem and sent her home.
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But Romero didn't get better. She called Carlos III hospital on October 2 and was directed, per protocol, to an external medical department under the umbrella of Madrid's regional health service, the hospital spokesman.
Romero ended back home again. On Monday, she ended up calling an ambulance, which took her to Alcorcon hospital.
It was there, on Tuesday, that Romero got tested for Ebola. The positive result came back two hours later, according to an Alcorcon doctor.
Yet it wasn't until eight hours later, a worker at the same hospital said, when she was transported to the hospital where she worked, Carlos III.
Dog of nursing assistant put down
As she battles the deadly virus, Romero has company.
Five others related to her case were also at Carlos III hospital as of late Wednesday, including two doctors and a male nurse admitted earlier in the day, Carlos III hospital said in a press release.
The nurse's assistant is the only one confirmed to have Ebola. Besides the three new cases, the others include the woman's husband, judged to be at high risk of infection, and a nurse from the same hospital. Two others were released from Carlos III hospital earlier in the today -- a Spanish man who'd recently come from Nigeria and a female nurse.
Others are being tracked from afar.
Authorities said Tuesday that a total of 30 people from Carlos III Hospital and 22 others -- from the Alcorcon hospital where the woman first sought care, plus family members -- are being monitored.
Already, there's one victim in this case: Romero and her husband's dog, Excalibur.
It's not known if Ebola can be passed through canines. The WHO has said, though, that it's infected chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines. Yet human infections, to date, have not been linked to dogs.
Nonetheless, health authorities felt they had to take action in case Excalibur had the disease.
About 400,000 people signed an online petition to save the dog from being killed, contending that that "it would be much easier to isolate or quarantine the dog just as they have the victim's husband," rather than forcing the couple to lose "one of the family."
But this push was for naught, as Madrid health authorities put down the dog Wednesday.