Ebola risk in Spain is ‘almost zero’: WHO

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization said on Monday that the risk of contagion from the Ebola virus in Spain was "almost zero" and described the repatriation of an infected Spanish priest as "correct".

Ebola risk in Spain is 'almost zero': WHO
Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, who contracted the deadly Ebola virus, being transported from Madrid's Torrejon air base on August 7th. Photo: IƱaki Gomez/Spanish Ministry of Defence/AFP

Speaking to Spanish TV channel Cuatro, WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl said that "many" Spanish health workers were well-trained to deal with any possible Ebola cases.

He reassured Spaniards that the WHO and Spain's Ministry of Health, Social Security and Equality were following international protocols to remain in "constant contact".

Referring to the recent repatriation of Ebola-infected priest Miguel Pajares and nun Juliana Bonoha Bohe, who is not infected but has been admitted to hospital as a precaution, he said: "We have seen how the two people from religious orders were correctly received in Spain. "

"We have just started a new phase and we need a little time but in Spain there are many people trained to deal with these cases," he added.

Hartl's comments come after a number of medical professionals slammed Spain's "improvised" preparations for the repatriation of Miguel Pajares.  

One medical union told The Local that staff were being given accelerated courses on how to deal with the deadly disease which has a mortality rate of 50 to 90 percent. 

Pajares, was one of three people who tested positive for Ebola at the Saint Joseph Hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia where he worked.

He was brought back to Spain on a medically equipped Spanish military plane, the first patient in the fast-spreading Ebola outbreak to be evacuated to Europe for treatment.

Spanish health authorities said on Thursday the priest was in a stable condition. The hospital is not providing medical updates for the missionary at his request.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa which has claimed the lives of over 900 people has been declared an "international health emergency" by the WHO.

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Spanish researchers develop five-strain vaccine against lethal Ebola virus

Spanish researchers are working on a vaccine against all five strains of the killer Ebola virus in what would be a world first, Madrid's October 12 Hospital said Wednesday (July 11).

Spanish researchers develop five-strain vaccine against lethal Ebola virus
Ebola protects itself with proteins that act as a shield, and only exposes its vulnerable zones for short periods of time. Photo: AFP

A prototype vaccine developed by pharmaceutical group Merck is already in use, but acts only against the most virulent, “Zaire” strain.

Despite not having market approval, Merck's rVSV-ZEBOV was administered to people in the Democratic Republic of Congo in May, with UN approval, in a bid to contain an outbreak of the same virus that killed more than 11,300 in three West African countries from 2013 to 2015, sparking international panic.

For several months, a team from the October 12 Hospital has been working with researchers at two other hospitals in the capital to examine and learn from blood samples taken from three people cured of Ebola in Spain.

Lead researcher Rafael Delgado told reporters the difficulty lay in the fact that the virus protects itself with proteins that act as a shield, and only exposes its vulnerable zones for short periods of time.

That makes it tough for the body's immune system to fight the virus.

The three Spanish patients had produced “very effective” viral antibodies, though in a “small quantity” and only against the Zaire strain they were contaminated with.

Delgado, head of microbiology at the hospital, said researchers are aiming to reproduce these antibodies on a larger scale, and in a way that would make them efficient against all five virus strains.

US medical giant Johnson & Johnson is separately developing an experimental vaccine against two Ebola strains.

Delgado said researchers hope to get results from mouse experiments within a year.

The Ebola epidemic caused alarm in Spain in 2014 when a nursing assistant, Teresa Romero, became the first person infected outside Africa.

She caught the disease while tending to a Spanish missionary repatriated from Sierra Leone, who died in Spain in September that year.