Manuel García Viejo, a Spanish missionary who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, arrived in Spain early Monday morning in a medically equipped airplane and was transferred to a Madrid hospital amid heavy security measures.
He is the second Spaniard with the deadly virus to be treated at Carlos III hospital. In August, a priest named Miguel Pajares died after being flown in from Liberia and treated for five days by a team of specialists in rare diseases.
García Viejo, 69, was previously being treated at the health center in Lakka, outside Freetown, where he was admitted last Thursday after displaying symptoms of Ebola, according to Luca Rolla, a doctor and health coordinator for Emergency, the Italian non-profit that was looking after him. “He was conscious but appeared confused at times. His overall condition is not good.”
You never know at first whether a patient has typhoid fever, malaria or Ebola” Friar José Luis Garayoa
A member of the religious order of Brothers Hospitalliers of Saint John of God and a physician himself, García Viejo was the medical director of a hospital in the city of Lunsar. Colleagues of his raised the alert when it emerged that he was running a fever that would not go down with anti-malaria medication or acetaminophen. On Friday, tests confirmed that García Viejo had contracted Ebola.
“He wanted to stay, but they convinced him that he had no chance here,” says José Luis Garayoa, a colleague and a member of the religious order of Augustinian Recollects. “The best choice was [the hospital] in Kailahun, with Médecins Sans Frontières, but they were filled up, so he accepted repatriation.”
Little is known about how García Viejo contracted a disease that is spreading across western Africa. As director of a hospital belonging to the religious order that he has been a member of for the last 52 years, he had been in touch with patients who died before their condition could be determined.
“You never know at first whether a patient has typhoid fever, malaria or Ebola,” explains Garayoa. “It’s obvious he contracted it while working at the hospital.”
García Viejo had apparently purchased a plane ticket to go back to Spain on vacation in October.