A Spanish priest who has been infected with the Ebola virus arrived in Spain this morning. Miguel Pajares was brought to the Madrid airbase of Torrejón de Ardoz by plane from Liberia, and touched down at around 8.10am. He is the first infected European to be repatriated to his country since the latest outbreak of the virus began in March. The United States has already brought two of its citizens who have the Ebola virus back to American soil.
Pajares was transported in a military Airbus 310, accompanied by army health personal. Also on the plane was Juliana Bohi, a Spanish nun originally from Equatorial Guinea. She is not presenting any symptoms of Ebola. Both were taken from the airbase at around 9am to Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, from which 30 patients were discharged on Wednesday in order to be able to treat Pajares and Bohi in isolation.
Pajares is in a “clinically stable situation,” while Bohi is presenting “a good general state,” according to Rafael Santamaría, the manager of the La Paz-Carlos III hospitals in Madrid, who spoke to the press after both patients had been admitted for treatment. Neither is suffering from hemorrhaging, which is a positive sign given that bleeding is a sign that an Ebola sufferer’s condition is worsening.
Pajares is reported to be “slightly disorientated” and feverish. He arrived in Spain with a catheter in place, “so that his urine is collected in a bag and does not need to be touched by anyone,” Santamaría explained. The priest is breathing without assistance, and is conscious, according to Antonio Alemany, one of the hospital chiefs, who said that both La Paz and Carlos III are “in conditions to attend to this patient in any of the situations he could face throughout his illness.”
The patients were transferred in a convoy of 14 vehicles, including cars and motorbikes from the national and local police forces, and the Civil Guard. Three ambulances were also present, the drivers of which were wearing protective masks. The patients were taken into the hospital through a side door, avoiding the main entrance, where dozens of journalists were waiting.
The Spanish military plane that flew to Monrovia in Liberia on Wednesday took off from the African country at around 2.30am on Thursday. Waiting for them at the base in Torrejón was a medical team, which performed an initial examination before the pair were taken separately to the hospital.
According to an official statement from La Paz hospital, of which Carlos III is a branch, both were transported in the plane inside an isolation unit, which was moved “directly” into the ambulance without exterior contact “at any moment.” Ebola is passed from person to person via body fluids, such as blood or sweat.
Staff at the Carlos III hospital worked through the night to prepare the isolation unit to treat the patients. Sources from the hospital said that the number of people working inside would be reduced, but a steady stream of cars and taxes – at least 50 since 5am – have been arriving in the car park, where press are not permitted to enter. The majority of those arriving are administrative personnel.
Security measures have been stepped up at the hospital, with officers from the national and municipal police in place. At 9am a police van took position at the main entrance.
Pajares and Bohi, who were carrying out humanitarian work in Liberia, are in separate isolated rooms with negative air pressure, meaning that air from the room will not seep out. Staff will have to enter via one door and leave via another, where they will leave their protective clothing, in case it has become contaminated.
While in Liberia, Pajares had been taking care of the director of a hospital, Patrick Nshamdze, from Cameroon, who died from Ebola on Saturday. Initial tests suggested that the hospital chief did not have the virus, which is why the priest continued to feed and care for him.