PARIS (AFP) – The first home-grown European case of Ebola, in a Spanish nurse, was avoidable, virologists said Tuesday as the EU demanded answers from Madrid.
Though there is always a threat to health workers of infection with the virus spread through contact with body fluids, the risk is small and well-understood and existing protections effective, the specialists said.
“If appropriate containment measures were adopted this really should not have happened,” said Jonathan Ball, a virology professor at the University of Notthingham.
“It will be crucial to find out what went wrong in this case so necessary measures can be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
The Spanish government said Monday that a nurse had contracted the haemorrhagic fever after treating two patients who died at a Madrid hospital – both missionaries infected in West Africa, where Ebola has claimed more than 3,400 lives.
The 40-year-old woman is in a stable condition.
The European Union on Tuesday demanded an explanation from Spain as to how she could have become infected.
In comments to Britain’s Science Media Centre, experts said protective suits worn by health workers, coupled with safe disposal of patients’ bodily waste, substantially reduced the risk.
“The recent report of a Spanish nurse who has contracted the virus is of concern as it suggests that the barrier methods and training were not sufficient to protect healthcare workers and prevent secondary infection,” said virology professor David Evans of the University of Warwick.