A PLANE was isolated at Madrid’s airport yesterday over a suspected Ebola case after a passenger was found to be suffering a fever and shivers, officials said.
The passenger, who had travelled from Nigeria, was taken by ambulance with a driver wearing full protective gear to Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital and the rest of the passengers were allowed to leave the Air France plane as normal.
The flight, carrying 163 people, arrived in Madrid from Paris and was taken to a special area of the airport. It was last night being disinfected.
A Spanish health ministry spokeswoman said authorities were treating the incident as a suspected Ebola case.
Earlier, a health ministry spokesman said the condition of a Spanish nursing assistant with Ebola appeared to be improving but a person who came into contact with her before she was hospitalised on 6 October has a fever and will be admitted and tested for the virus.
He added that Teresa Romero, 44, is in stable condition at the Madrid hospital and the level of Ebola virus in her body was declining.
At an emergency meeting of EU health ministers yesterday, its 28 nations vowed to better co-ordinate action at entry points at European airports. Some nations now have Ebola entry checks while others do not.
France will begin screening airline passengers for Ebola tomorrow at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.
The Paris airport authority said medical teams will take passengers’ temperatures before they enter the terminal.
The move comes as a nurse suspected of having caught the Ebola virus through contact with an infected humanitarian worker was admitted to a French hospital yesterday, according to reports.
Meanwhile, David Cameron will discuss further action with senior officials after talking with world leaders who accepted the international community needed “to do much more and faster” in the face of the health crisis.
The Prime Minister will chair the latest meeting of the government’s Cobra contingency committee amid warnings over fast-escalating infection rates in West Africa and concerns over efforts to prevent it spreading across the globe.
Downing Street has defended Britain’s “robust” measures to protect the UK against Ebola, including screening procedures at Heathrow, which have faced criticism for being inadequate.
Following the leaders’ talks, a Downing Street spokeswoman said they had agreed the world faced “the most serious international public health emergency in recent years”.
The most urgent priorities included “increasing the amount of international spending on the issue, increasing the number of trained personnel working in the region to treat those affected and prevent the disease spreading, and evacuation procedures for workers affected”.
It also emerged doctors at England’s Premier League clubs will closely monitor players returning from African Nations Cup qualifiers.
Although no players have travelled back to the UK from the worst-affected parts of West Africa, the issue has been considered by club medics.
A football source said: “Players are probably more closely monitored healthwise than any individuals in the country. They are surrounded by doctors and their levels are tested daily.”
In the US, the White House admitted shortcomings in the treatment of an Ebola victim in Texas after it emerged a second nurse who cared for him was infected – and had taken a commercial flight with 132 other passengers on the day before suffering symptoms. She was receiving treatment in Atlanta.
President Barack Obama cancelled political campaigning to meet his cabinet to discuss the situation and take part in a 75-minute video call with Mr Cameron and the leaders of France, Germany and Italy that was dominated by the response to the threat.
Danish authorities were also yesterday testing a medical worker from Médecins Sans Frontières for Ebola. He had been in West Africa.
Half of all 9,000 victims will soon have died, says UN
The death toll from the Ebola crisis will this week rise to more than 4,500 out of the 9,000 people infected, an official with the United Nations’ health agency said yesterday.
Dr Isabelle Nuttall, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) global capacities, alert and response unit, said the outbreak was hitting health workers hard, with 2,700 infected and 236 dead, mainly because Ebola victims are most contagious at around the time they die.
She said the focus of the world’s efforts should remain on the three West African countries where the outbreak has been spreading out of control. “Our data shows that cases are doubling every four weeks,” she told a news conference in Geneva. “The disease is still widespread in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and there is persistent transmission of the virus.”
Although the effects of the crisis are increasingly being felt beyond West Africa, until now, two nurses in Dallas, Texas, and a Madrid nursing assistant are the only victims known to have contracted Ebola outside the “hot zone”.
Dr Nuttall said cases were growing in Guinea’s capital of Conakry, but problems with data-gathering in Liberia made it hard to draw any conclusions there.
The WHO has identified 14 African countries where containing Ebola is a top priority. Those are Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan and Togo. “They’ve been chosen because either they have land borders with the affected countries … or they have high travel or trade routes,” Dr Nuttall said.
Meanwhile, Chinese president Xi Jinping yesterday offered continued support but made no specific new aid offers. China last month pledged £20 million in assistance and dispatched doctors and medical supplies.