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MADRID – A Spanish nurse who treated two missionaries for Ebola at a Madrid hospital has tested positive for the virus, Spain's health minister said Monday.
It is the first known transmission of the current outbreak of the disease outside West Africa.
The female nurse was part of the medical team that treated priests Manuel García Viejo, who died on Sept. 26, and Miguel Pajares, who died Aug. 12, at the hospital Carlos III de Madrid.
The infection was confirmed by two separate tests, Health Minister Ana Mato said after an emergency meeting held Monday afternoon in Madrid.
According to El País newspaper, the woman checked herself Monday morning in a hospital in Alcorcón, a suburb southwest of Madrid, with a high fever. The identity of the woman, who according to El Pais is 44 years and has no children, has not been released.
Health officials quoted by the paper say 30 people are currently under surveillance, and it is still being determined who she has been in contact with.
Nobody apart from the woman is in quarantine at the moment.
They said the woman went on vacation after García Viejo’s death, but did not disclose the destination. She led a normal life in recent weeks and her only symptoms were a fever and fatigue, Antonio Alemany, Madrid director of primary health care, said in the news conference.
"We do not know yet what could have failed, we are investigating the mechanism of infection," he said.
The World Health Organization confirmed there has not been a previous transmission outside West Africa in the current outbreak. WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told The Associated Press that so far there have only been confirmed cases in West Africa and the United States, and no known transmission outside West Africa. The organization is awaiting official notification of the case from Spanish authorities.
The woman will be transferred for treatment to Madrid's Carlos III hospital, where she has been a nurse for 15 years.
The virus that causes Ebola spreads only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is showing symptoms.
Spanish authorities said they were investigating how the nurse became infected at a hospital with modern health care facilities and special equipment for handling cases of deadly viruses.
More than 370 health workers in West Africa have become infected in this outbreak, and more than half of those have died. Doctors and nurses there have worked under difficult conditions, treating patients in overflowing wards, sometimes without proper protection. But even under ideal conditions, experts warn that caring for Ebola patients always involves a risk.
WHO estimates the latest Ebola outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people.
The AP contributed to this report.