Spain sets up Ebola 'crisis committee'

A woman walks past a bus stop banner reading "Emergency Ebola" near Madrid, Spain. Photo: 9 October 2014 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Warning messages about Ebola have appeared in public places in Spain

Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy has set up a special committee to deal with the impact of Europe's first case of Ebola.

Mr Rajoy admitted that the situation was "complex and difficult", but stressed that the government had a clear plan of what needed to be done.

Spanish nurse Teresa Romero is said to be gravely ill, after catching the haemorrhagic fever while caring for patients brought from West Africa.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,860 people, mainly in West Africa.

More than 200 health workers are among the victims.

Ebola is now entrenched in the capitals of the worst-affected states - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.


Speaking outside Madrid's Carlos III hospital, where the 44-year-old Spanish nurse is being treated, Mr Rajoy said: "Our first priority is Teresa Romero - she is the only person that we know has the illness".

Image copyright AP
Image caption Prime Minister Rajoy (centre) said the government was clear about what needed to be done
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ebola is taking a particularly heavy toll in Liberia
Image caption Results of the clinical trial span several countries in the region, and results will be sent to a team of experts

The prime minister said the second key task was to find others who might have caught the virus and investigate how this happened.

He was speaking as seven more people in Spain were being monitored in hospital for suspected Ebola.

They include two hairdressers who came into contact with Ms Romero.

The nurse's apartment in Alcorcon, near Madrid, has been sealed.

Notices outside the complex announce an ongoing deep-clean by emergency services, the BBC's Lucy Williamson in Madrid says.

On the driveway, there is a message of sympathy and hope, and a small scattering of candles can be seen, our correspondent adds.

Ms Romero is believed to have become infected after touching her face with the glove of her protective suit while taking it off.

Experimental serum

Meanwhile, a senior health official told the BBC that leading global experts in the field had not anticipated the scale of the Ebola outbreak.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWHO's Dr Chris Dye: We didn't anticipate this outbreak was going to be this big

Chris Dye from the WHO said the international response was helping, and the important thing now was to look forward.

"We've asked for a response of about $1bn (£618m); so far we have around $300m (£185m) with more being pledged, so a bit less than half of what we need but it's climbing quickly all the time," he said.

In April, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warned of the potential spread of the virus, but at the time the WHO played down the claims, saying that Ebola was neither an epidemic, nor was it unprecedented.

On Friday MSF reported a sharp increase of Ebola cases in the Guinean capital, Conakry, dashing hopes that the disease was being stabilised there.

Meanwhile in Mali, an experimental serum is being tested on volunteer health workers.

The trial spans several countries, and the results will be sent to experts to determine whether it can protect against Ebola.

In other developments:

  • The Ebola crisis has resulted in the activation for the first time of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters. Its normal role is to provide satellite imagery to make damage and hazard-assessment maps
  • Liberian MPs have rejected a request to grant President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf additional powers - including limiting the movement of individuals - to deal with the outbreak
  • Meanwhile, senate elections due next week have been postponed to help reduce the risk of voters spreading the virus
  • Nigeria's military has confirmed that more than 1,300 Nigerian peacekeeping troops have been quarantined in Liberia after coming into contact with a Sudanese man who later died of the disease. It had earlier denied such reports
  • More details of how passengers at some British airports will be screened are expected to be announced later on Friday
  • The US begins its programme of enhanced screening this weekend at five of its major airports, including JFK

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The US is preparing to send troops to West Africa to fight Ebola

How not to catch Ebola

  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

Why Ebola is so dangerous

How Ebola attacks

Ebola: Mapping the outbreak

Ebola facts
People can catch Ebola if they are in direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person or animal
Early symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea and bleeding, sometimes from the eyes and mouth
The current outbreak started in March in west Africa, where the worst-affected countries include Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
It is thought unlikely that the disease would spread if it did come to the UK because quarantine and communications are more developed than in parts of western Africa
There is no licensed Ebola vaccine but treatments are in development

  • Protective Ebola suit

  • Surgical cap


    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles


    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask


    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator


    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs


    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls


    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves


    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron


    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots


    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.

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