By ALAN CLENDENNING and HAROLD HECKLE
MADRID (AP) — A Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola after treating missionary priests with the disease repatriated from West Africa has managed to beat it after nearly two weeks of treatment in Madrid and has no traces of the virus in her bloodstream, according to test results released Sunday night by Spain’s government.
Teresa Romero, 44, is believed to be the first person to have caught Ebola via transmission outside of West Africa in the current outbreak. Two nurses in the U.S. later contracted Ebola after treating a Liberian man who died at a Dallas hospital.
Romero was among Spain’s team of health care workers caring for the priests in August and September and told officials she remembered touching a glove to her face after leaving the hospital room of Father Miguel Pajares, who died Sept. 25. She entered his room twice — once to change his diaper and another time after he died to retrieve unspecified items.
Romero, who remains quarantined at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, must undergo another Ebola test to make sure she is virus free after testing positive on Oct. 6.
The second Ebola test is usually performed within two to three days and Spain’s committee dealing with the country’s Ebola crisis said in a statement that the confirmation test to make sure Romero no longer has Ebola would happen in “coming hours.”
Her husband, Javier Limon, is among 15 people who came into contact with Romero after she started feeling feverish after treating Pajares and stayed mostly at home in the Madrid suburb of Alcorcon before being hospitalized. Spanish authorities said none of them — including Limon — have shown symptoms of Ebola so far.
“I am very happy today, because we can now say that Teresa has vanquished the disease,” Limon said Sunday night in a video showing him sitting on his hospital bed that was released to reporters by his spokeswoman, Maria Teresa Mesa.
Mesa told reporters outside the hospital Sunday night that Romero was “doing spectacularly well” and is eager to leave the hospital as soon as she can.
“She’s capable of getting out of bed and eating practically anything,” said Mesa, adding that Romero told her: “I shouldn’t have to die, I’m too young.” Mesa has also contradicted Spanish officials’ accounts on how Romero might have been infected by saying she followed all protocols and does not remember the incident with the glove.
Romero was treated with blood plasma from people who have been infected with Ebola, but Spanish authorities have not released more details of how she was cared for because she requested that no details be released about her treatment program.
The nursing assistant still does not know that Spanish health authorities approved the killing of the couple’s mixed breed dog named Excalibur on Oct. 8 instead of isolating the pet, unlike U.S. authorities who quarantined the King Charles Spaniel belonging to one of the infected Dallas nurses.
On Sunday, there was a shrine with flowers and sympathy notes to Excalibur outside the Alcorcon apartment complex where Limon and Romero live.
Before Romero’s test result was released Sunday, hundreds of Madrid health care workers protested demanding the ouster of Spanish Health Minister Ana Mato, saying she should resign for the country’s handling of Romero’s infection and blaming government austerity cuts to national health care for allowing it to happen.
Health care unions have claimed they were badly prepared for the Ebola crisis in Spain and received substandard protective gear and training for putting the suits on and taking them off when dealing with suspected Ebola cases.
A regional Madrid health official came under harsh criticism for suggesting that Romero lied about her posing a risk to Spaniards because she did not tell the first doctor she saw after she felt sick that she had been among those treating Ebola patients.
The government has denied botching Ebola preparations, but changed protocols for dealing with the disease after Romero was infected. To comply with World Health Organization guidelines, Spanish health care workers must now be monitored while getting in and out of protective gear when dealing with suspected Ebola cases.
The government also announced new Ebola protective gear training to ensure workers learn how to put on and take off the gear themselves instead of relying on someone else to watch them doing it.
Over the weekend, Spain accepted a request by American authorities to allow the U.S. to use two military bases in the country to support its efforts to combat Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The deal allows U.S. forces to use an air base at Moron de la Frontera near Seville and the naval station at Rota on Spain’s Atlantic coast to transport personnel and materials to and from Africa, Spain’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
It was reached after Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes met with his U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Washington.
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