This is a microscopic image of an Ebola virus.

A microscopic image of the Ebola virus. Credit: NIAID

Health authorities in Spain have confirmed that a health worker at the Carlos III Hospital in Madrid, Spain has been infected with the Ebola virus. This is the first time anyone has contracted the virus outside of Africa.

The woman, a nurse technician, had worked in the room where two Ebola patients—both missionaries—were treated at separate times. Miguel Pajares, who was evacuated from Liberia, died on August 12; Manuel García Viejo, who worked in Sierra Leone, passed away on September 26.

In a press conference Monday evening in Madrid, the Spanish minister of Health Ana Mato said that the appropriate measures were "activated immediately to take care of the patient and guarantee the safety of the hospital personnel that are taking care of her and of all the citizens.” She added that health authorities are “working on verifying the source of contraction” and that an epidemiological study is on the way to identify all contacts the women has had in the last few days.

Antonio Alemany, Director of Primary Care of the Community of Madrid, provided more details about the case. The woman was in contact with the two patients both while they were alive and also after they had died. On September 27, the woman left for vacation.

Because she had taken care of Ebola patients, the health care worker took her temperature twice a day, following the guidelines of the World Health Organization. On September 30 she reported an elevated temperature to hospital officials, but it was not high enough to trigger suspicions about Ebola. Today, however, she reported that her temperature had climbed above 38.6 degrees Celsius (normal is 37.5 degrees Celsius).

Two tests were performed in the Alcorcón hospital near where she lives and both confirmed the infection. The patient has now been transferred to the Carlos III hospital, the institution where she works and that is best prepared to take care of patients with Ebola in Spain.