Ebola virus: Spanish protests as nurse's dog is put down

Media caption,
Spanish authorities have been criticised after the nurse contracted Ebola in the country's best-equipped quarantine unit

Health authorities in Spain have put to death the dog of a nurse infected with the Ebola virus in Madrid, sparking protests from animal rights groups.

Activists scuffled with police outside her home as the dog was taken away.

The nurse, Teresa Romero, is the first person known to have contracted the deadly virus outside West Africa.

She had treated two missionaries who later died from Ebola. The virus has killed 3,879 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

A court order to euthanise Ms Romero's dog was issued on Tuesday despite uncertainty over whether the animal was also infected or risked spreading the disease.

On Wednesday about 50 animal rights activists held a protest outside the nurse's home in Madrid, shouting "assassins".

Two protesters were hurt when they tried to stop the van in which the animal was being transported, El Pais newspaper reported.

The fate of the dog, named Excalibur, sparked huge interest on social networks, after Ms Romero's husband, who like her is being kept in isolation in a hospital, alerted animal protection groups via social networks.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
In Sierra Leone, burial teams have gone on strike because they have not been paid

Ms Romero, 40, was part of a team of about 30 staff at the Carlos III hospital in Madrid looking after Spanish missionaries after they were repatriated from West Africa.

She told the El Pais newspaper that she might have become infected when removing her protective suit after cleaning one of the missionaries' room.

Analysis: Can dogs get Ebola?

Scientists think Ebola first originated in fruit bats, which seem to cope well with the virus and do not become unwell. People can pick up Ebola directly from animals through contact with infected bats or through contaminated bush meat.

In some studies of previous outbreaks dogs were seen to have antibodies against the virus in their blood - proteins that fight Ebola. Their presence suggest the dogs were exposed to Ebola at some point and their bodies mounted a defence against it.

But whether the virus actually causes illness in dogs and whether dogs can then spread it on to humans remains unclear.

Smitha Mundasad, BBC News health reporter

Striking workers

A World Health Organization (WHO) adviser has warned that more Ebola cases can be expected among medical staff, even in developed countries.

In Sierra Leone, burial workers have gone on strike this week, leaving the bodies of Ebola victims on the streets of the capital, Freetown.

Local media said the teams had abandoned their posts in anger over unpaid wages, but Deputy Health Minister Madina Rahman insisted on Wednesday that the strike had been "resolved" and the staff would soon return to work.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Several aid organisations have criticised the global response to the outbreak, saying more needs to be done

In neighbouring Liberia, health workers say they will go on strike if their demands for more money and safety equipment are not met by the end of the week.

In the UK, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Britain could be "proud" of its contribution to the battle against the virus, telling the BBC £125m ($170m) had been committed to the fight already.

He said "rapid construction" of medical facilities was ongoing in Sierra Leone after the UK announced it was sending 750 troops.

Meanwhile the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US - a man who contracted the virus in his native Liberia - died in a hospital in Dallas on Wednesday.

The US has announced it will begin screening air passengers arriving from affected countries as soon as this weekend.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by bodily fluids such as blood, sweat and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no proven vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be natural host of virus
  • Protective Ebola suit

  • Surgical cap


    The cap forms part of a protective hood covering the head and neck. It offers medical workers an added layer of protection, ensuring that they cannot touch any part of their face whilst in the treatment centre.

  • Goggles


    Goggles, or eye visors, are used to provide cover to the eyes, protecting them from splashes. The goggles are sprayed with an anti-fogging solution before being worn. On October 21, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced stringent new guidelines for healthcare personnel who may be dealing with Ebola patients. In the new guidelines, health workers are advised to use a single use disposable full face shield as goggles may not provide complete skin coverage.

  • Medical mask


    Covers the mouth to protect from sprays of blood or body fluids from patients. When wearing a respirator, the medical worker must tear this outer mask to allow the respirator through.

  • Respirator


    A respirator is worn to protect the wearer from a patient's coughs. According to guidelines from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the respirator should be put on second, right after donning the overalls.

  • Medical Scrubs


    A surgical scrub suit, durable hospital clothing that absorbs liquid and is easily cleaned, is worn as a baselayer underneath the overalls. It is normally tucked into rubber boots to ensure no skin is exposed.

  • Overalls


    The overalls are placed on top of the scrubs. These suits are similar to hazardous material (hazmat) suits worn in toxic environments. The team member supervising the process should check that the equipment is not damaged.

  • Double gloves


    A minimum two sets of gloves are required, covering the suit cuff. When putting on the gloves, care must be taken to ensure that no skin is exposed and that they are worn in such a way that any fluid on the sleeve will run off the suit and glove. Medical workers must change gloves between patients, performing thorough hand hygiene before donning a new pair. Heavy duty gloves are used whenever workers need to handle infectious waste.

  • Apron


    A waterproof apron is placed on top of the overalls as a final layer of protective clothing.

  • Boots


    Ebola health workers typically wear rubber boots, with the scrubs tucked into the footwear. If boots are unavailable, workers must wear closed, puncture and fluid-resistant shoes.

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