Spanish Ebola victim conscious & sitting unaided

The nurse was conscious & sitting as three more people joined 12 hospitalised to be monitored for Ebola.

A health worker stands near a man suspected of suffering from the Ebola virus as he lies on the ground naked after he was admitted to Island Hospital in Monrovia on 2 October 2014. Picture: AFP.

MADRID - The Spanish nurse infected with Ebola was conscious and sitting unaided on Saturday, as three more people joined 12 others hospitalised in Madrid to be monitored for signs of the deadly disease.

Teresa Romero, 44, is the only person known to have caught the virus outside Africa. None of the 15 others still under observation has been diagnosed with Ebola so far, though the Spanish government is under fire for its handling both of Romero's case and the threat of a wider outbreak of the disease.

Reuters images showed Romero alert and sitting upright in her hospital room with an oxygen mask strapped to her face and responding to the hospital staff attending to her. She had taken a turn for the worse two days ago, health authorities said, and is still considered critical.

"Teresa Romero's condition has undergone no significant changes and is still serious, but stable," a government Ebola committee said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.

The latest outbreak of the disease has already killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in West Africa, and Romero's case has raised fears about contagion in Europe and elsewhere.

"The big problem is in West Africa where the doubling rate is every four weeks and it really is going up and up, so it will not be surprising if we have spill over into this country," said Sally Davies, Britain's chief medical officer.

"I would expect a handful of cases over the next few months," Davies told BBC TV after an eight-hour nationwide drill to test the country's readiness to deal with an Ebola outbreak.

Britain has said it will start screening passengers for Ebola who enter the country through London's two main airports and by railway from continental Europe. The United States on Saturday began screening travellers from West Africa at New York's John F. Kennedy International airport.

Spain's government tightened Ebola detection protocols on Friday and tasked Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria with responding to the health crisis, five days after the contagion was confirmed.

Romero was diagnosed with Ebola after caring for two priests who had contracted the disease in Africa and were then repatriated to Spain. Both men died, one in August and one in September.

Another nurse who treated one of the priests was released from hospital late on Saturday, after testing negative for Ebola.

A hairdresser, another nurse and a cleaner, all of whom came into contact with Romero, were admitted to the isolation unit at the Carlos III hospital on Friday evening. The 13 who were already under observation included Romero's husband.

An experimental treatment, ZMab, is available in Spain for use in her case, a health source said. However, it was not clear whether she was now being given the drug. She was given antibodies from previously infected patients earlier this week.

The ZMab combination drug, made by Canada-based company Defyrus Inc., is one of the agents used to make ZMapp, another treatment, which was developed by MappBiopharmaceutical Inc. ZMapp has been used on some Ebola sufferers, a number of whom survived, but available supplies are exhausted.

Hospital authorities and the government declined to comment.