An airline passenger showing symptoms of the Ebola virus on board an Air France flight to Madrid was taken to hospital on Thursday when the aircraft landed.
Officials for the French airline, the Spanish government and the Madrid airport said that the passenger had been shaking and shown signs of a fever during the Air France flight 1300. The aircraft was flying from Paris to Madrid, a spokeswoman for Air France said.
The passenger was taken from the airport by ambulance to a hospital in Madrid to be tested for the virus, the Air France spokeswoman said. The remaining 155 passengers on board—as well as two pilots and five crew members—were released from the aircraft on Thursday afternoon Madrid time, the spokeswoman said.
The Spanish government said the flight was grounded and that the passenger was being examined in line with World Health Organization and European Union measures put in place in August.
The steps taken in Madrid come as European Union leaders agreed to step up measures to try to prevent the spread of Ebola within the bloc’s borders.
French President François Hollande said that U.S. President Barack Obama and U.K., Italian and German leaders had agreed to screen people coming from some countries particularly hard-hit by the virus.
“We have agreed that we must multiply controls and from tomorrow there will be controls on aerial transport between Guinea and France,” Mr. Hollande said.
Germany upped its aid to fight Ebola to €102 million ($130.9 million) from €17 million, days after the government acknowledged that it had underestimated the scale of the crisis.
And Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that the virus had “started in Africa, but now the Ebola epidemic is rapidly turning into a tragedy and into one of the greatest humanitarian emergencies.”
He added: “We all need to do our part to cooperate and collaborate.”
European Union Health Commissioner Tonio Borg emphasized on Thursday that the onus is on individual countries to screen for potential Ebola cases.
“The decision whether to introduce entry screening and what kind remains the sovereign decision of member states,” Mr. Borg said. “We are ready to coordinate and give information to all member states who then use it to protect themselves as they see fit.” He also emphasized that the risk of Ebola spreading in Europe remains low.
The grounded aircraft in Spain, an Airbus A321, left Paris Charles de Gaulle airport at 0735 GMT and arrived in Madrid Barajas airport at 0940 GMT, the Air France spokeswoman said.
Spain has been on alert for any signs of additional Ebola cases after a Spanish nursing aide tested positive for the virus last week. She has been in quarantine since Mon., Oct. 6 and on Thursday was showing some signs of improvement, a spokesperson for Spain’s Ebola crisis committee said.
The nursing aide, Teresa Romero, became infected with Ebola while treating two repatriated missionaries who died from the virus—in what was the first transmission of the virus outside of West Africa.
While still in serious condition, Ms. Romero’s “viral load” has continued to decline, and vital organs that had been affected by the virus were showing signs of improvement, said the spokesman, Fernando Simón.
Mr. Simón added that a person who had come in contact with Ms. Romero was being transported by ambulance to a hospital for testing on Thursday after developing a fever earlier in the day. He didn’t identify the person but said that the patient was not a health care worker.
That raises to 16 the number of people who have been quarantined as a precautionary measure, the majority of whom are health-care workers that treated Ms. Romero. Fifteen of those patients have shown no symptoms of Ebola, such as a fever or diarrhea.
The person isolated on Thursday was one of 68 people who had contact with Ms. Romero that are being monitored by the Spanish government. The person had been considered a “low risk” contact.
In Geneva, the WHO said Thursday it was working to prepare more African countries to deal with possible Ebola outbreaks, as the number of deaths from the virus is expected to soon top 4,500.
During a news briefing, WHO Director of Global Capacities, Alert and Response Doctor Isabelle Nuttall said the organization has been focusing its education and other efforts on 15 African countries near Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which have so far been most affected by the deadly virus. While no cases have yet been reported in bordering or nearby countries such as Mali and Senegal, “we have to be ready for that to happen,” she said.
The support efforts have included helping countries assess what they need to prepare for outbreaks in terms of protective equipment, as well as practical advice such as the fact that often pick-up trucks serve as the best type of ambulance for the infected as they can help isolate a driver from an infected person.
As part of her remarks, Dr. Nuttall announced that the number of Ebola cases is expected to top 9,000 this week, and related deaths are expected to exceed 4,500. “Cases are doubling every four weeks,” she said. “It will take time—months—before this outbreak is stopped.”