Spanish nurse who beat Ebola leaves hospital

AFP - [email protected]
Spanish nurse who beat Ebola leaves hospital
Former Ebola patient Spanish nurse Teresa Romero (L) is kissed by her husband Javier Limón before a press conference at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid on Wednesday. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

A Spanish nurse who was the first person to catch Ebola outside of Africa fought back tears as she left hospital on Wednesday after being cured of the deadly virus.


"I am here to thank everyone, I am still very weak," Teresa Romero, 44, told a news conference at Carlos III Hospital in Madrid where she has spent the past month, mostly in isolation.

Romero's eyes occasionally welled up with tears as she read a statement, surrounded by doctors and her husband Javier Limón.

"When I felt I was dying I would cling to my memories, to my family and my husband, I was isolated and I did not have any contact with the exterior except with Javier by telephone," she added.

Romero, 44, was part of a team at the Carlos III hospital who volunteered to treat two elderly Spanish missionaries who caught the disease in Africa and died in Madrid in August and September.

She was diagnosed with Ebola on October 6th, becoming the first person to catch the disease outside Africa, where nearly 5,000 people have died in the outbreak.

"This disease did not matter to the Western world until there was an infection here," Romero said.

"I don't know what failed, or if anything failed. I just know that I don't hold any grudges. If my infection is good for something, to better study the disease and help develop a vaccine, or if my blood can be used to cure other people, I am available."

Tempers have frayed over the case, with health workers saying they had not received adequate training and equipment, and labour unions accusing the government of trying to deflect the blame onto the nurse for failings in its handling of the issue.

Health workers jeered Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and pelted his car with surgical gloves on October 10th when he visited the hospital where Romero was treated.

Spain tightened its Ebola control measures after complaints that included protective suits that were too small for some medical workers.

Critical moments

There is no market-approved drug for treating Ebola yet, and no vaccine to prevent it.

Hospital doctors said Romero received various treatments, including blood plasma from an Ebola survivor, but were unable to say if any had been effective.

"There were critical moments when we thought the outcome would not be what we hoped for," said Marta Arsuaga, one of the doctors who treated Romero.

"She will be able to lead a normal life, there is no more trace of the virus in her body," the head of the Carlos III hospital's infectious diseases unit, Jose Ramon Arribas, said.

Her husband and 14 other people who came into contact with her were also sent to a special isolation unit in the hospital to be monitored for signs of Ebola, though none showed any symptoms.

Speaking in his wife's name, Limon lashed out at the decision by Spanish authorities to put down the couple's pet dog, Excalibur, as a precaution.

Experts say there is a risk that canines may carry the deadly virus, but no evidence that they could infect humans.

In the United States, the authorities spared the dog of a Texas healthcare worker who was infected with Ebola.


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