Spanish nursing assistant Teresa Romero thinks she touched her face with a contaminated glove while removing the protective suit she wore while caring for missionary Manuel García Viejo, according to a report in El País.
She also says that she found out that she was sick with Ebola and not some other illness by checking the news on her cell phone.
“I suspected it because the last time they came into the room wearing white suits, I asked the doctor for my test results but he didn’t give me an answer. I looked and my phone and saw that I had tested positive for Ebola,” she said in Spanish in an interview.
Germán Ramírez, chief of internal medicine at Hospital La Paz has reconstructed the chain of events with Romero a few times and says that the accidental touch almost certainly occurred after Romero had been cleaning García Viejo’s room, and that the nursing assistant simply couldn’t recall what had happened when questioned about it at first.
Further, since she wasn’t isolated immediately after feeling sick and was at first told by her family doctor to just take aspirin and wait, there’s a chance she could have passed the virus on to someone else.
Romero also says that when she was first examined in the hospital in Madrid, no one was wearing protective gear, according to an interview published in El Mundo.
All of those contacts are now considered at high risk, according to Fernando Simón, communications director for the Ministry of Health.
This comes after the Madrid nurses union has issued a statement claiming that the nurses working at Carlos III Hospital, where Ebola patients are being treated in Spain, were absolutely unprepared to handle those patients.
According to Victoria Trujillo, president of the union, the only specific training that some of the nurses and assistants dealing with Ebola patients had was a 15 or 20 minute talk on how to put on the suits, nothing more.
People who worked with Romero say that the floor in Carlos III where Ebola is being handled used to be dedicated to tropical diseases, but has been essentially dismantled in recent years, meaning that it was out of use and lacked essential facilities, including a laboratory station or a blood bank.
There weren’t even beds on the hospital floor when the first Ebola patient arrived, says Trujillo.
Nursing organisations and healthcare workers in Spain say that cuts left the healthcare system unprepared for such a serious case, and that there wasn’t even a full list of the workers who were in contact with two infected missionaries treated in the hospital.
While this is another tragic story, it helps answer some questions that people have asked about how a healthcare worker in a country like Spain could still get infected with the virus.
In the interview with El Mundo, conducted via a cell phone, Romero said that she was very tired but feeling better than she had been when she entered the hospital.
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