TIME Spain

Surreal Scene of Migrants Atop Spanish Border Fence

A golfer hits a tee shot as African migrants sit atop a border fence during an attempt to cross into Spanish territories between Morocco and Spain's north African enclave of Melilla
A golfer swings as African migrants sit atop a fence during an attempt to cross from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Oct. 22, 2014. José Palazón—Reuters

The fence is often the scene of would-be border-jumpers aiming to reach Europe

Among the top issues this year for European countries along the Mediterranean has been how to handle the flow of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who seek a better life within their borders. Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants journeyed across perilous routes throughout the year, and in thousands of cases met death before land. Others have attempted to cross into one of the two Spanish enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, that border Morocco.

The latter scene played out again on Oct. 22, and was captured in a picture at the border fence surrounding Melilla that later went viral online. Eleven men are seen sitting atop the fence as a police officer approaches — and as two women play golf below. One is in mid-swing while the other is turned toward the group.

José Palazón, an activist with a migrant-rights group, spotted the men above the golf course and thought it was “a good moment to take a photo that was a bit more symbolic,” he told El Pais. “The photo reflects the situation really well — the differences that exist here and all the ugliness that is happening here.”

Spain’s interior ministry said about 200 people tried to scale the fence that day, according to the Associated Press. About 20 successfully crossed, while another 70 stayed on top of the fence for hours.

TIME Spain

Spain Says 60 Migrants Enter African Enclave

(MADRID) — The Spanish government says several hundred African migrants staged multiple attempts to scale the border fences separating enter Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla from Morocco, with some 60 managing to get across.

The Interior Ministry said the simultaneous border rushes started around 7 p.m. (0500 GMT) Monday at different points along the border fence that stretches around the city, thus foiling the ability of Moroccan and Spanish police to repel all the migrants.

The 60 migrants who managed to avoid police interception headed for city’s temporary migrant accommodation center. Police eventually repatriate the migrants or let them go.

Thousands of African immigrants living illegally in Morocco try to enter Spain’s enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta each year in a bid to reach Europe.

TIME ebola

Flight Grounded in Madrid After Passenger Displays Symptoms of Ebola

Air France jet isolated at Madrid airport over suspected Ebola case
Medical staff wearing protection suits stand next to the Air France Airbus A321, which landed at Barajas International Airport in Madrid, Spain, on Oct. 16 2014 Paco Campos—EPA

A passenger showing fever and shaking during the flight was rushed to a local hospital after landing

An Air France flight from Paris was grounded after arriving at Madrid airport on Thursday after one of its passengers showed Ebola-like symptoms.

The passenger was promptly rushed to a local hospital after shaking and showing signs of fever throughout the flight, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Crew members and the 162 passengers were allowed to disembark on Thursday afternoon, and those who were in direct contact or sat nearby the hospitalized passenger are being closely monitored.

Air France canceled the return flight to Paris and said the aircraft would be thoroughly disinfected before resuming operations.

The London Evening Standard reported that the passenger is believed to have visited Lagos in Nigeria.

[WSJ]

TIME Spain

Spain’s Catalonia Calls Off Independence Vote

(BARCELONA, Spain) — The leader of Spain’s separatist-minded Catalonia region called off a Nov. 9 independence vote on Tuesday but said an unofficial poll would still be held that day to gauge secessionist sentiment.

Separatists in the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia, which has 7.5 million people, have been trying for several years to hold a vote to break away from Spain and carve out a new Mediterranean nation.

Catalonia leader Artur Mas insisted his regional government was not backtracking with the decision. He said it still intends to push ahead with an official vote at a later date but added the symbolic vote would serve as a “preliminary” ballot.

“The Catalan government maintains its goal of holding a referendum on Nov. 9, it means there will be polling stations open, with ballot boxes and ballots,” said Mas. “It will depend on the people for a strong enough participation to show that people here want to vote.”

Mas was forced to suspended the referendum after the Spanish government challenged its legality before Spain’s Constitutional Court, which suspended its staging while it deliberates on the issue.

Spain says only the Spanish state can call referendums on sovereignty and that all Spaniards would be entitled to vote.

Mas said with the referendum suspended, the Catalan government would rely on another law that allows a public consultation. He said the decision had caused a fracture among the region’s pro-vote parties.

TIME Spain

Spain Euthanizes Pet Dog of Ebola-Infected Woman

(MADRID) — The Madrid regional government says it has euthanized the pet dog of a Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola.

Police on Wednesday took the dog, called Excalibur, from the Madrid apartment where Teresa Romero and her husband live. The regional government said the animal was sedated before being euthanized and was then incinerated.

Authorities had obtained a court order to kill the mixed-breed dog, saying they could not rule out the possibility Excalibur could spread the deadly virus.

Animal rights groups launched an online campaign to save Excalibur, and the fight went viral in social media.

Protesters tried to stop the dog being taken away in a van, but police with batons cleared a path.

TIME ebola

360,000 Sign Petition to Spare Ebola Patient’s Dog

Spanish Nurse Tests Positive For Ebola
'Excalibur' barks from the balcony of the private residence for the Spanish nurse who has tested positive for the Ebola virus on October 8, 2014 in Alcorcon, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

"Excalibur" is at the mercy of Spanish officials, who want to euthanize the dog after one of its owners contracted the disease

Animal lovers have protested, tweeted and petitioned by the tens of thousands to stop Spanish officials from euthanizing an Ebola patient’s dog.

The outcry began shortly after the patient’s husband, Javier Limon, posted a YouTube plea to animal lovers to help spare the life of “Excalibur”. NBC News reports that Limon has been placed in isolation in a Madrid hospital ever since his wife, nurse-aide Teresa Romero Ramos, became the first person to contract the virus outside of west Africa while caring for a Spanish priest who had returned from the region.

Limon said in the recorded appeal, “I’m in the hospital and I’m sending a call to all the population for them to help me save my dog, Excalibur, who they just want to kill just like that without following any proper procedures.”

There have been no documented cases of dogs spreading Ebola to humans, or vice-versa, though other animals may become carriers.

Animal lovers protested outside the couple’s apartment in a southern suburb of Madrid on Wednesday, where Excalibur had been holed up alone with a bathtub full of drinking water and 33 pounds of dog food, Limon told Spanish daily El Mundo. “Murderer,” several shouted at health workers who had arrived to disinfect the apartment.

Protesters also launched a petition to spare Excalibur which has gathered more than 360,000 signatures to date and flooded Twitter with pictures of their own pet dogs signs reading, “#SalvemosaExcalibur.”

The campaign has intensified amid conflicting reports of the dog’s fate in local media, best summed up by the El Mundo headline “¿Dónde está Excalibur?” The most recent update posted by Limon on Facebook says the dog has not yet been taken away by authorities.

 

TIME ebola

Spanish Ebola Nurse Reported Symptoms 3 Times Before Isolation

A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno—Getty Images

It emerged Wednesday that Teresa Romero Ramos, a nurse who caught Ebola after helping treat a patient, made multiple attempts to report her fever

A Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola in Madrid this week told health authorities at least three times she had a fever before she was finally placed in quarantine, it emerged Wednesday, despite having helped treat a patient who later died of the virus.

The nurse, named by the media as Teresa Romero Ramos, is the first person to have caught the Ebola virus outside of Africa in the current outbreak.

Romero Ramos first called a specialized service dedicated to occupational risk at Carlos III hospital in Madrid on Sept. 30 and complained of a slight fever and fatigue, a government official said, but was advised to visit her local clinic. She called again a few days later,the Guardian reports, but nothing was done.

When Romero Ramos called for a third time on Monday, she was finally transported to a hospital by paramedics who did not wear protective gear. Despite warning staff that she had contracted Ebola, she remained in a bed in the emergency room separated from other patients only by curtains.

“It would have been better if she had entered the hospital on the 30th,” Fernando Simón, emergencies coordinator for the Health Ministry, acknowledged to the press this week.

Some have criticized Spanish authorities for not providing sufficient training in Ebola protocols, and nurses complained that there had been no simulations of Ebola treatment by the time two infected missionaries arrived from west Africa.

The Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said Wednesday morning that the Spanish healthcare system was “one of the best in the world,” and asked that “health professionals, who have a proven reputation, be left to do their work.”

[The Guardian]

TIME ebola

Madrid to Kill Dog of Spanish Nurse Infected With Ebola

NBC News

Madrid’s regional government said it would kill the pet dog of a Spanish nursing assistant who became infected with Ebola — overcoming the family’s objections on Tuesday with a court order.

The nursing assistant was the first person infected outside of West Africa, after caring for a Spanish priest who died of Ebola last month. Authorities have three people under quarantine and said that available scientific knowledge indicates there’s a risk the dog could transmit the deadly virus to humans.

Read the rest of the story at NBC News

TIME ebola

Spain’s Ebola Case Exposes Gap in Disease Defenses

A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.
A Spanish nurse infected with Ebola is moved to Carlos III Hospital from Alcorcon Hospital on Oct. 7, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno—Getty Images

Despite rigorous checks and protocols, a nursing assistant in Madrid still contracted the disease from a sick patient

When two Spanish missionaries working in Sierra Leone contracted Ebola and were evacuated to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, city officials and the country’s health minister assured a nervous public that the hospital’s strict protocols would prevent transmission of the virus to health workers and other patients.

But something went wrong. A 40-year-old nursing assistant has become the first person to contract the disease outside of Africa after helping care for one of the missionaries, Manuel García Viejo, before his death on Sept. 25. The nurse, who has not been named by the hospital, was infected despite being fully outfitted with two layers of protective gear on the two occasions she helped treat him. She also reported to the hospital that she was suffering from a fever a full week before she was admitted to a highly secure isolation ward early Tuesday morning. At this point no one knows exactly where a mistake was made. But the fact that the hospital’s rigorous checks couldn’t prevent the nursing assistant from becoming sick raises the question: is Europe less prepared for Ebola than it thinks?

“It came as a true surprise, and a stunning one,” says Máximo González Jurado, president of the General Nursing Council (CGE), which represents Spain’s nurses. “We thought we were well prepared, and that the risk—even if it can’t be zero—was minimal. After all, we have very good, very modern health care. Spain has the seventh best health care system in the world.”

At Hospital Carlos III, the 30 health workers who had contact with the infected missionaries donned double layers of head-to-toe protective gear each time they entered the isolation room where the patients were housed. They were also required to take their own temperatures twice daily during the 21-day incubation period for the disease. It was through that protocol that the infected nurse first reported on Sept. 30th that she had a temperature of 38.6 C (101.5 F).

For reasons that are still unclear—possibly because the fever was relatively low, but perhaps because in its early stages, Ebola’s viral count can be too low for detection—the disease was ruled out. Like Thomas Eric Duncan, the visiting Liberian who presented himself at a Dallas hospital on Sept. 25, the nurse was sent home. On vacation from work, she stayed there until an ordinary ambulance brought her to her neighborhood hospital on Oct. 6 with a fever that was by then raging.

“It would have been better if she had entered the hospital on the 30th,” Fernando Simón, emergencies coordinator for the Health Ministry, admitted to the press. But that possible mistake is not the only one under scrutiny. In August, a male nurse at Hospital La Paz, which is affiliated with Carlos III, wrote an anonymous post for the blog of the Madrid Association of Independent Nursing, in which he complained that the staff was not sufficiently trained in Ebola protocols, and that it had not performed any simulations of Ebola treatment by the time the two missionaries arrived.

It’s a complaint repeated by González, the nursing council’s president. “In the case of avian influenza A, the government formed a crisis cabinet, there was exhaustive information available to the public and complete training for health professionals,” he said. “That was not the case with Ebola. According to the information we have, the staff were not receiving the kind of in-depth training they should have.” Those who cared for the two missionaries were not isolated, a protocol that has since changed with the nurse’s case.

“We don’t do many simulations in Spain, and we need to, we need to professionalize this more,” says Dr. Antoni Trilla, epidemiologist at the Hospital Clinic of the University of Barcelona. “It’s only through achieving real verisimilitude that you discover the flaws in your protocols.” He should know: his hospital has had two Ebola scares, both of which turned out to be negative. But the cases enabled the hospital to improve, for example, its procedure for one of the most dangerous moments of care: removing protective gear after contact with the infected.

But even improved training has its limits, especially for a disease so highly infectious as Ebola. “What we know from the situation of healthcare workers in west Africa is that it is sometimes actually people who appear to have taken all the precautions that fall ill,” says David Moore, Professor of Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.“They may have dropped their guard when removing protective gear or in disposing of a dead body. In west Africa, they learnt that lesson the painful way.”

Caregivers in Europe are likely to learn that lesson too. “It’s unavoidable that there will be other cases like this,” says Zsuzsanna Jakab, European regional director for the World Health Organization. “But Europe—and especially the European Union—is well prepared. I would even say it’s the best prepared region.”

It may need to be. So long as air travel continues to and from the three countries in west Africa worst affected by the disease, the risk of further outbreaks remains high. With nearly 30% of the air passengers leaving Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone flying to Europe, the risk of more cases appearing in Europe is real—and growing. A study published in the scientific journal PLoS on Oct. 6 put the risk of Ebola being imported to France by October 24 at 75% and to the UK at 50%. The results were based on levels of air traffic.

It’s healthcare workers like the Spanish nursing assistant who will likely be worst affected. The unnamed woman was in a stable condition as of Tuesday evening, and is receiving immunotherapy in the form of a serum made from the blood of an Ebola patient who recovered. Three people, including the nurse’s husband, have now been placed in quarantine, with medical staff who treated her under observation, and contact tracing of friends and family. But even if she remains an isolated case, others are sure to follow. “We’re never going to see this become an epidemic among the general public in Europe,” says Dr. Trilla. “But there is definitely a risk for medical personnel. They’re the ones I worry about.”

— With reporting by Naina Bajekal / London

TIME ebola

Spain Confirms First Ebola Transmission Outside of Africa

Spain Ebola
An ambulance transporting a Spanish nurse who is believed to have contracted the ebola virus from a 69-year-old Spanish priest leaves Alcorcon Hospital in Madrid on Oct. 7, 2014. Andres Kudacki—AP

Two tests confirmed the Ebola diagnosis

Updated Oct. 7 9:17a.m ET

A nurse in Spain who treated two Ebola victims has tested positive for the virus, becoming the first known person to have contracted the disease outside of Africa, Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato announced Monday.

The woman had worked as a part of the medical team that treated Spanish priest Manuel García Viejo, who died of the virus in September, the Washington Post reports. She began feeling ill last week and went to a hospital on Sunday, though Mato said she is in stable condition and her only symptom thus far has been a fever. Two tests confirmed the Ebola diagnosis.

Authorities said Tuesday that three people had been put in quarantine, the Associated Press reports, including the nurse’s husband and a colleague who also treated Viejo. Over 50 others were being monitored for having possible contact with the nurse.

[Washington Post]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser