HEALTH

Ebola patient in Spain believes she got infected rubbing her face with protective gloves

  • Nurse aide Teresa Romero in an undated file photo.

    Nurse aide Teresa Romero in an undated file photo.  (Facebook photo courtesy of El País.)

  • The entrance of the apartment building of the nurse infected with Ebola in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.

    The entrance of the apartment building of the nurse infected with Ebola in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014.  (ap)

Teresa Romero, the nursing assistant infected with the Ebola virus in Madrid, told a Spanish reporter over the phone Wednesday that she believes she got infected when removing her protective suit after attending to Manuel García Viejo, the priest who died of the disease on Sept. 25.

"I think the problem is in removing the suit,” she said in a very weak voice, according to El Pais. “I see it as the most critical moment, in which it could have happened, but I do not know for sure," she added from Carlos III hospital, where she's being treated since early Tuesday.

Health officials say Romero twice entered the room of Spanish missionary Manuel Garcia Viejo, once to change his diaper and again after he died to retrieve unspecified items.

Germán Ramírez, with the Internal Medicine Unit for Tropical Diseases at the hospital, said he has spoken with the patient on three occasions to go over her movements after she had contact with the priest. He said he thinks the infection occurred when she touched her face with the gloves while trying to removing the suit.

"Maybe it was not a mistake but an accident," he told El Pais.

Ramirez said Romero believes she touched her face with the glove after her first entry.

More than 3,400 people have been killed by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has hit Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia hardest. Romero’s case has shown that health workers can contact Ebola even in highly sophisticated medical centers in Europe.

In her interview with El Pais, Romero said she spends most of her time sleeping and staring at her cell phone, that keeps her informed and in touch with the outside world. She said she has a TV in the room but has never turned it on.

"I hope to get out of this, I have to get out of this," she said in a faint voice filled with hope. "Today I have no fever, I am somewhat better," she told the paper.

“I am OK — well, so to speak. I am better,” she concluded.

In another interview Wednesday with Spain's Cuatro television channel, Romero said when she started feeling sick and went to her local health center in Madrid's suburbs she didn't tell doctors she had helped treat an Ebola patient. She did not say why.

She said she had received training about how to put on and remove her hazmat suit. She declined to give an opinion about whether the training was adequate.

Romero’s husband, Javier Limon, is also quarantined at the hospital. Limon told Spain’s El Mundo by telephone that his wife started feeling sick with a low fever Sept. 30 but did go to a career advancement exam attended by other candidates, Limon said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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