Health workers protesting outside La Paz University Hospital in Madrid on Tuesday, calling for Ana Mato, Spain’s health minister, to resign after a Spanish nurse contracted Ebola. Credit Andrea Comas/Reuters
BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s government came under heavy criticism Tuesday as it dealt with the repercussions of Western Europe’s first Ebola case, quarantining three more people and monitoring dozens who had come into contact with an infected nurse.
Health care workers, who have been sparring with the government over cutbacks, said they had not received proper training or equipment to handle an Ebola case. The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, asked for an explanation, according to news reports. And some opposition politicians called for the health minister, Ana Mato, to resign.
At a news conference in Madrid, officials insisted that they had taken all appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus. But in a sign of the government’s unease with the possible political consequences, a lower-ranking official, María Mercedes Vinuesa, director of public health, went before Parliament on Tuesday to answer questions, not Ms. Mato.
The infected nurse, who has not been identified, was described as being in stable condition. Her husband and two other people were quarantined, and monitoring was extended to about 50 people who were believed to have come into contact with her.
Health officials have said that the nurse became infected while treating a missionary, Manuel García Viejo, who died in the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid on Sept. 25, after being repatriated from Sierra Leone. Officials said the nurse went on vacation the day after he died, then told a medical center that she had a fever of about 100 degrees on Sept. 30. She was hospitalized only on Monday, initially in another establishment without any unit specifically for handling diseases like Ebola..
The nurse’s husband has shown no signs of having the disease but was isolated as a precaution, said Dr. Francisco Arnalich, head of internal medicine at the hospital.
Reached by phone in his hospital ward, the nurse’s husband told the newspaper El Mundo that the couple had canceled vacation plans after he had an accident at work, and that his wife had decided to spend a few days at her mother’s, instead. He did not specify the mother’s location. He said that he felt fine and that he was confident his own health was evolving “favorably.” But he said he was angered to hear that the medical authorities were recommending, as a precaution, that their dog be euthanized.
The husband, identified by the newspaper as Javier, said his wife, identified as Teresa, had told him that she followed all the safety instructions set by the hospital and did not know how she could have become infected. The case is worrisome because Spain is a developed country that is expected to have the rigorous infection control protocols needed to fight the spread of Ebola.
A second nurse who also treated the missionary was put under quarantine after reporting diarrhea, but she did not have a fever, the most common early symptom of Ebola, health officials said.
A Nigerian man who recently arrived in Spain is also under quarantine but tested negative for Ebola, according to Spanish health authorities. A second test is to be carried out Wednesday.
Opposition politicians said Tuesday that Ms. Mato, the health minister, needed to explain any safety lapse, while some called for her immediate removal. Caridad García Álvarez, a lawmaker from the United Left party, said on Twitter that Ms. Mato should resign, saying she had ignored warnings from health workers about inadequate safety measures.