Spain is preparing itself as far as possible in case the deadly Ebola virus – currently sweeping three west African nations – reaches the country. The Spanish-owned city-provinces of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern Moroccan coast could be a point of entry for the disease, which so far has a survival rate of less than 10 per cent and his highly infectious, although not contagious.
Whilst no apparent risk or signs of the disease entering Spain have been detected as yet, these two enclaves of Spain are a known and regular entry point for sub-Saharan Africans attempting to enter Europe via the ‘back door’, either by jerry-built boat or by climbing the border fence after trekking across the continent for months, and not everyone who gets through is caught and sent back.
Madrid‘s Adolfo Suárez airport is also a major gateway for illegal immigration from African nations, meaning staff have been placed on their guard and given training to enable them to cope if a potentially affected passenger is seen.
A full procedure has been set up to deal with any likely spread of the disease to Spain, with red folders containing full documentation having been sent to health authorities in each of the country’s 17 regions, as well as Ceuta and Melilla.
In addition to possible illegal immigration from African States, tourists from Spain or expats visiting their families in the affected countries, as well as aid workers, particularly doctors and nurses, working in areas where Ebola is rife and who travel back to Spain during the incubation period, which is between two and 21 days.
Even Africans brought to Spain for treatment of other conditions may be carriers.
A recent scare involving a 45-year-old Guinean man who flew to Valencia via Morocco and was displaying symptoms of the lethal virus ended with the patient, who was in isolation at the eastern Spanish city’s La Fe hospital, testing negative.
Symptoms of the condition include fever, muscular weakness, extreme tiredness, headaches and a sore throat, which is usually followed quickly by diarrhoea, vomiting, skin eruptions, kidney and liver failure.
Internal and external bleeding are usually seen early on, and tests will show a very low blood count in patients with a positive diagnosis.
There is no vaccination or treatment.
It is infectious – passed on through human contact – but not contagious (airborne).
The Ebola virus can be sexually-transmitted up to seven weeks after the patient has been declared clinically cured, as well as through infected animals – dead or alive – including antelopes, monkeys, chimpanzees and bats.
Body fluids in humans or affected animals – blood, tissue, secretions of any description including urine, excrement and mucous, or internal organs or even external ones such as eyes, earns and noses through tears, for example – carry the virus and contact with any of these elements can pass it to another person, whether the sufferer is alive or dead.
The virus is rife and, in the words of international aid charities, out of control in Sierra Leone, Guinea – but not Guinea Bissau as yet – and Liberia.
Foreign offices in Spain and the UK have advised against all travel to the countries in question, and caution in the case of border nations such as Guinea Bissau and the Ivory Coast.
If anyone is unable to avoid travelling to these nations, they should make contact with the embassy of their country in that part of Africa, which may be in a neighbouring State – the Ivory Coast is the nearest country with a Spanish embassy.