Spain in Turmoil Over Ebola Scares

by Kathy Jones on  October 12, 2014 at 11:09 AM General Health News
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Online hoaxes have sparked off a fear of Ebola infection in Spain as nurses are staying off work, foreigners are flying home and children are missing out on party invitations.
 Spain in Turmoil Over Ebola Scares
Spain in Turmoil Over Ebola Scares

"We are very stressed," said Charly Manuel Torres, one of the nurses caring for Teresa Romero, the Madrid nurse who became the first person to catch the disease outside Africa.

"Our families say to us: 'Are you sure you're alright? Sure you're not going to get infected? Wash yourself carefully,'" Torres said.

Staff at the Carlos III hospital where Romero is being treated are at the centre of concerns that she may have spread the virus to others.

"If you work at Carlos III, you can't go anywhere. Your kids don't get invited to birthday parties and that it is tough," added Elena Moral, a spokeswoman for the public sector workers' union CSI-F.

Roberto Tornamira, of Spain's biggest union UGT, said cleaners were nervous about going into rooms in a hospital in the Alcorcon district where Romero spent a few hours before being transferred to Carlos III.

Work inspectors suspended cleaning in the Alcorcon hospital after they found cleaners working without face masks, Tornamira said.

"In Spain we love kissing each other on the cheek, but now people are doing that less," he added.

Paloma Parrilla, a spokeswoman for the SAE nurses' union, said staff are worried because we have seen that there have been failings in the protection system.

"Some people are refusing to do any work and some aren't even turning up," she said. "It is natural because we are human."

- Hoaxes on the web -

Hoaxes and false rumours have fuelled the anxiety, teeming online and via WhatsApp, a mobile phone messaging service highly popular in Spain.

"Hoaxes about Ebola are continuing via WhatsApp," warned the Guardia Civil national police force in a message on its Twitter account.

"Seek information from trustworthy media and do not spread panic."

The force cited an example of a fake news article talking of a new case of infection in southern Madrid.

The jitters have yet to hit tour companies and airlines, which said they had not noticed an increase in cancellations nor heard major concerns from tourists.

That was reassuring, for the time being, for Spain, which relies on tourism for more than a tenth of its economic output.

But some foreigners living in Spain got infected by the fear.

"I decided to leave because of the infected patient," said Sarah Anderhofstadt, a German student of 23, studying at a Madrid university under the Erasmus foreign exchange programme.

Anderhofstadt said she was particularly sensitive to news of the nurse's infection on Monday because her own father died of an infectious disease.

She has only been in Madrid since September but on Friday she was due to fly back to her home town near Munich, hoping to return in a few weeks.

"On Monday night I couldn't sleep. It affected me really personally. My mother is going crazy. She leaves 50 messages a day on my voicemail," she said.

Two of her friends, a Polish and an Italian student, have also bought tickets to fly home.

"If there are no new cases in two or three weeks, I will come back, because I love Erasmus and I was really keen to come here," Anderhofstadt said.

"But now I feel a bit paranoid. It's best that I go home and come back when the situation has calmed down a bit, and above all when I have calmed down myself."

Source: AFP

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