Spanish nurse contracts Ebola in first known case of transmission outside Africa

Spain’s health minister says the explanation for how she got the disease is simple enough. A Spanish missionary caught the virus while he was in western Africa and was flown home for treatment; the nurse was supposedly a member of the staff that treated him. However, a spokeswoman at the hospital where the missionary was admitted told the AFP today that she doesn’t know yet whether the nurse treated him or not. That’s an important detail, obviously. If the nurse wasn’t in direct contact with the missionary, how’d she catch the bug?

Her only symptom at the moment is a fever but two separate tests confirm that she has the virus. The missionary died 10 days ago.

The Spanish nurse is in a stable condition, Reuters quoted health officials as saying. She started to feel ill last week when she was on holiday.

The nurse was admitted to hospital in Alcorcon, near Madrid, on Monday morning with a high fever, Ms Mato said.

Doctors isolated the emergency treatment room.

Interestingly, the hospital where she’s been admitted isn’t the same one where she works and where she may have treated the missionary. The latter is Hospital Carlos III; she’s been admitted to the Hospital Alcorcon. None of the stories I’ve read about this explain why. Maybe it’s as simple as the Alcorcon being closer to where she lives, although I suppose a nurse who suspected she caught a deadly illness notwithstanding the safety precautions taken by her own hospital might have less faith in that institution at this point than in another. (Or was it a mistake she herself made in treating the missionary that exposed her to the virus?) At the very least, I would think Spain would prefer that its Ebola patients be confined to one facility if that’s feasible. Which it is in this case, since both of these institutions are in or around Madrid.

Why is this huge news, incidentally, worthy of banner treatment at Drudge? I get the milestone appeal of it — the disease is now, technically, spreading in Europe — but there’s no reason (yet) to think anything mysterious happened here. No one’s suggesting that the missionary’s strain was some super-mutant airborne version of the evolving disease. Maybe the nurse touched some fluid and then, in a moment of absent-mindedness, touched her eye. That’s horribly unfortunate but everyone understands, I think, that hospital staff are the people most at risk from an Ebola patient. Much was made, and rightly so, of the bravery of the Emory staff who admitted and treated Dr. Kent Brantly given the increased risk of infection he posed to them. Now the infection scenario has played out in Spain. It was bound to happen to some poor doctor or nurse, no?