A nurse in Spain has contracted ebola, becoming the first person known to have caught the disease outside the outbreak zone in West Africa during the current epidemic.
The nurse – who has not been named – was part of the medical team of around 30 that treated 69-year-old priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, who died in a Madrid hospital late last month, Spain’s health minister said.
The sick priest had been flown home from his post in Sierra Leone. The nurse is believed to have contracted the virus from him.
She went to a Madrid hospital with a fever 10 days after the priest died, and was placed in isolation.
She was later transferred to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, where the priest – and a second missionary priest sick with ebola – were cared for until they died.
The World Health Organization confirmed that there has not been a previous transmission outside West Africa in the current outbreak.
The development came an American suffering from the disease arrived back in the US for treatment, and president Barack Obama said he was considering more careful screening of airline passengers travelling from the outbreak region.
Video journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who became infected while working in Liberia, was taken to the Nebraska Medical Centre in Omaha, where another ebola patient had been treated.
Mr Mukpo is the fifth American with ebola brought back from West Africa for medical care. The others were aid workers – three have recovered and one remains in hospital.
There are no approved drugs for ebola, so doctors have tried experimental treatments in a few cases.
A critically ill Liberian man in hospital in Dallas is also getting an experimental treatment. Thomas Eric Duncan is the first person to be diagnosed with ebola in the US – he was admitted to the hospital on September 28, about a week after arriving in Texas.
The hospital said Mr Duncan was receiving an experimental drug called brincidofovir, which was developed to treat other types of viruses. Laboratory tests suggested it may also work against ebola.
Two other experimental drugs developed specifically for ebola have been used, though it is unclear whether they had any effect. This included a small supply of ZMapp, the drug given to UK nurse Will Pooley who has now recovered from the disease.
A second drug, TKM-Ebola from Tekmira Pharmaceuticals, has been used in at least one patient and is said to be in limited supply.
The unprecedented ebola outbreak this year has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa, and become an escalating concern to the rest of the world.
It has taken an especially devastating toll on health workers, infecting or killing more than 370 in the hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone – places which were already short of doctors and nurses.