EBOLA OUTBREAK

Bleach and a robot used to disinfect Ebola victim’s Madrid hospital room

New tests confirm late priest Miguel Pajares’ colleague Juliana Bonoha is not infected

Patients are moved from the Carlos III Hospital prior to the arrival of Miguel Pajares last week.
Patients are moved from the Carlos III Hospital prior to the arrival of Miguel Pajares last week.Jaime Villanueva / EL PAÍS

The Madrid hospital room in which Spanish priest Miguel Pajares spent the last five days of his life battling the Ebola virus began to be disinfected on Wednesday. The task was first undertaken by a team from the Carlos III public hospital using bleach and then by a robot belonging to the same US company that cleaned the Washington, D. C. central post office after the 2001 anthrax attacks and also helped prevent the spread of infection in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans in 2005. The hospital has not disclosed the cost of the procedure.

Staff at the center used bleach and disinfectant gas to clean the installations and burnt materials used by both Pajares, who died from the disease on Tuesday, and sister Juliana Bonoha Bohé, who was  repatriated to Spain from Liberia alongside him last week. New tests on Thursday confirmed that the 65-year-old Spanish nun has not been infected by the Ebola virus, though she will remain in hospital until the 21-day incubation period has passed.

The firm Steris Iberia is in charge of completing the decontamination process in the room that Pajares occupied. Its technicians sealed the room, leaving in it a robot “similar to a large shopping cart” that is controlled by a computer from outside, explained the company’s head of business, Miguel Ángel Valdeolivas.

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The machine discharges vaporized hydrogen peroxide that “eliminates all microorganisms within five or six hours,” said Julían Pons, a engineer for the company. It marks the first time that the subsidiary of the US firm, which has been operating in Spain for the last 30 years, has had to eliminate the Ebola virus, although it regularly works with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and arms companies. The disinfection work is due to be completed on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the funeral of 75-year-old Pajares, the first person to die of Ebola outside of Africa, took place in the chapel of the San Rafael hospital in Madrid on Wednesday. Forty relatives, friends, members of the clergy and politicians, including Health Minister Ana Mato, attended the ceremony.