Ebola outbreak claims first European victim

August 12, 2014 by David Williams

An elderly Spanish priest became the first European to die from a fast-spreading Ebola outbreak on Tuesday, succumbing to the virus in a Madrid hospital five days after being evacuated from Liberia.

The 75-year-old Roman Catholic priest, Miguel Pajares, had been treated in Spain with an experimental US serum, ZMapp, after being flown to Madrid on August 7.

He was the first patient to be evacuated to Europe from the African outbreak, which has claimed 1,013 lives since early this year, according to the World Health Organisation.

The Spanish priest contracted Ebola at the Saint Joseph Hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia where he worked with infected patients.

He died at 9:28 am (0728 GMT), a spokeswoman for Madrid's La Paz-Carlos III said, confirming that he had been treated with ZMapp.

The priest's remains will be incinerated to avoid any risk to health professionals, the hospital said in a statement.

A few days before the Spaniard's evacuation, two US missionary workers with Ebola were repatriated from Monrovia. They are being treated with ZMapp at an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

The unproven medicine arrived at Madrid's La Paz-Carlos III hospital on Saturday after Spain's drug safety agency exceptionally cleared its import to treat the missionary.

'The wolf is Ebola'

Acting as a spokeswoman for the priest's family, Begona Martin, his cousin, compared the Ebola outbreak to the fable of the boy who cried wolf.

"The wolf arrived when no-one expected and it ate everyone. The wolf in this case is Ebola and they were all helpless," she told Cadena Ser radio.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the royal family, including King Felipe VI, conveyed their condolences on Twitter.

Ebola has claimed four lives in 10 days among the staff at Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia, including its director, Cameroon-born Patrick Nshamdze. The hospital was closed on August 1.

A Roman Catholic order that set up the charity running the hospital has said it fears inadequate safety precautions were put in place.

The hospital is run by the Juan Ciudad ONGD charity, established by a Spanish Roman Catholic order, the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God.

'Lack of precautions'

The religious order's spokeswoman, Adriana Castro, told AFP on Monday that staff may have relaxed safety precautions after a test wrongly showed the hospital director to be clear of the virus.

"We don't know 100 percent but it is probable that is how Pajares was infected and possibly from Pajares the virus extended among people who were there," she said.

"Until they knew they were positive with Ebola they did not take precautions," she said.

Ebola, which causes fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding, spreads by close contact with an infected person through bodily fluids such as sweat, blood and tissue.

The Spanish religious order declined to comment on letters purportedly from Pajares describing his fear of Ebola and a lack of basic equipment to protect against its spread.

"Today, July 9 we had the first death from Ebola in our hospital. Many of us who work here, including me, were in contact with the deceased even though we did not have gloves to protect ourselves," the missionary wrote to friends and family according to Spanish daily El Mundo.

Five days later he reportedly wrote: "You will find it hard to believe but we lack the most basic protection: gloves, protective clothing, masks, disinfectants etc."

The WHO issued advice in April to healthcare workers to take precautions against infection even when Ebola has not been confirmed in patients.

Explore further: Spanish missionary in Liberia tests positive for Ebola

Related Stories

Spanish missionary in Liberia tests positive for Ebola

August 5, 2014
A Spanish missionary working in Liberia has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, the aid organisation he works for said Tuesday.

Spanish Ebola patient gets experimental drug

August 11, 2014
Spain has imported a U.S.-made experimental Ebola drug to treat a Spanish missionary priest evacuated from Liberia last week after testing positive for the killer virus.

West Africa feels knock-on effects of battle against Ebola

August 10, 2014
West Africa was counting the cost of measures to contain the deadly Ebola epidemic on Sunday, as unprecedented restrictions caused snarled transport, food shortages and soaring prices.

Ebola risk in EU 'extremely low': Commission

August 8, 2014
The EU's executive said on Friday said the risk of Ebola across the European Union remained "extremely low" despite the World Health Organization's decision to declare it an international health emergency.

Ebola sparks states of emergency across west Africa

August 7, 2014
A fast-spreading Ebola epidemic sparked states of emergency in overwhelmed west African nations Thursday as the death toll neared 1,000 and an elderly Spanish missionary was evacuated for treatment at home.

All doses of experimental Ebola drug sent to WAfrica

August 12, 2014
A US company that makes an experimental drug for treating the often deadly Ebola virus said Monday it has sent all its available supplies to West Africa.

Recommended for you

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.