“The mistake may have been made when I took off the protective suit”

Teresa Romero, the nursing assistant who contracted Ebola, speaks to EL PAÍS

Pilar Álvarez
Teresa Romero pictured at home with her dog.
Teresa Romero pictured at home with her dog.EFE

Sounding very tired, Teresa Romero, the nursing assistant who contracted Ebola in Spain, has told EL PAÍS that she may have become infected when removing her protective suit after cleaning up the room of Manuel García Viejo, a Spanish missionary who was infected with the virus and had been treated in Madrid’s Carlos III Hospital by a medical team that included Romero.

“I think the error was the removal of the suit,” she told EL PAÍS by phone. “I can see the moment it may have happened, but I’m not sure about it.

“I hope that I can get through this,” Romero added. “I have to get through this.”

Romero says that no one told her she was infected with Ebola, and she found out via the EL PAÍS website

Romero went on to explain that she did not have a fever today. “I’m doing okay – well, in a manner of speaking, I’m doing better,” she said, adding words of thanks for her fellow healthcare workers. “I’m very grateful to my colleagues; they are all trying to raise my spirits.”

The Ebola patient is being treated in isolation on the sixth floor of the Carlos III hospital in Madrid. There is a television in the room, but she does not know if it is working. “I’m not getting much information,” she explained. She also has access to a cellphone, on which she is receiving messages of support from her colleagues and she used to speak to EL PAÍS.

More information
The chain of errors that set the Spanish Ebola crisis in motion
Hospital workers: “Ebola suits unsafe”
Second Spanish missionary dies of Ebola

In statements made to TV network Cuatro, the nursing assistant said no one told her that she was infected with Ebola and that she found out via the EL PAÍS website. What’s more, she admitted that she did not tell her doctor that she had been in contact with patients who had been infected with the virus. “The nurses who dealt with me were wearing normal clothes, without any protection when they took me to the hospital. I asked the doctor for my results and he did not want to say anything to me, which is when I became suspicious,” she added.

Meanwhile, Germán Ramírez, from the La Paz-Carlos III hospitals’ Tropical Diseases unit, told reporters on Wednesday that he had spoken to Romero on three occasions to reconstruct exactly what happened the two times that she had contact with the Spanish missionary. Romero, according to Ramírez, believes she may have become infected with Ebola when she touched her face with her gloves still on after taking off her protective suit, after the first visit to the patient’s room. “It may not have been an error, but rather an accident,” J. J. Jiménez Gálvez reports. 

The deputy director of the hospital,Yolanda Fuentes, added that this kind of incident can pass by unnoticed, and it was only today, Wednesday, that the nursing assistant mentioned what had happened.

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