Fear and false alarms as Ebola puts Europe on alert
After the death of a Spanish missionary who contracted the virus in Liberia, European authorities are taking no chances
There has been only one confirmed Ebola case in Europe since the epidemic broke out in Africa, but a string of false alarms has provoked jitters and charges of overreaction.
From Austria to Ireland, Spain to Germany, there have been at least a dozen cases of west Africans with mild flu symptoms being isolated until it was established that they were not suffering from Ebola. The only recorded case involved a Spanish missionary who contracted the virus in Liberia and died after he had returned to Spain.
In Spain, worries over Ebola have resulted in three false alarms in as many days.
On Sunday, a hospital in Alicante said it was investigating a suspected case of Ebola after a man in his late 30s was admitted to the hospital suffering a fever as well as vomiting and bleeding. He had recently arrived from Nigeria, he reportedly told hospital staff. Later that day, health authorities said the man had tested negative for Ebola.
The next day there was panic at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport after a man suffered spasms and vomiting. Airport authorities put in place the Ebola protocol, cordoning off an area around the man. Health officials, wearing a type of hazmat suit, were brought in to attend to him, according to El País. After an examination by a second set of medics, it was determined that the man did not have Ebola. He was transferred to hospital for treatment.
And on Monday evening, protocol against the disease was activated after a middle-aged man was admitted to a hospital in Bilbao with a fever. He had reportedly returned from a business trip to Sierra Leone. The regional health authority urged people to stay calm, saying it was activating the protocol as a precautionary measure. On Tuesday it announced that the test had come back negative.
In Germany, about 600 people were quarantined for two hours in a Berlin jobcentre after a false alarm about a suspected case of Ebola.
A 30-year-old woman from west Africa had collapsed at the jobcentre in the Pankow district on Tuesday afternoon. The centre was quarantined after the woman had told medics that she had been in direct contact with Ebola victims in her home country.
However, after the woman had been examined at an isolation ward at Berlin’s Charité hospital, doctors said she had not visited an area affected by the virus and was suffering from an intestinal infection.
In Ireland, the body of an Irish engineer who had worked in west Africa was quarantined in hospital until Ebola tests could be carried out.
Dessie Quinn was found dead at his home in Mountcharles in Co Donegal and his body later taken to Letterkenny general hospital in the county where it was isolated. Tests for Ebola were carried out because he had been working in Sierra Leone a fortnight earlier.
His family said they were annoyed that the 44-year-old’s body had been placed in a quarantined area of the hospital without their prior knowledge.
“In its own way, that is very hard to take when there is a sudden death,” said family friend Fr Aidan Gavigan. “However, this was the first time they had heard of this news. He was a young man being treated for malaria for a number of weeks.”