Hundreds of tourists on the Spanish holiday island of Tenerife were evacuated early yesterday when a nurse who was a patient at a hospital linked to the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus fell ill.
Three others who worked at La Esperanza hospital are believed to have returned from tests in Germany, Spain’s Health Ministry said, but it said the possibility that they had returned from Saudi Arabia was “very low”.
Spanish media, which first reported the news, said the nurse had been treating the man who tested positive on Sunday for the virus.
“Some people started to feel unwell around 1am, when the general manager gave them an evacuation order,” a hotel guest said on the island’s provincial radio. The bedridden patient was transferred to La Quinta hotel, she said.
Another guest at La Esperanza hotel, where the man was admitted on Saturday and which is near the hospital, said she heard he was doing well and out of hospital.
No deaths have been reported and patients are being treated in special isolation rooms. “This was a precaution,” said a local epidemiologist.
MERS has killed 107 people in Saudi Arabia since it emerged in 2012. The World Health Organisation says the virus is not easily transmissible from person to person and is mostly spread through close contact with respiratory droplets.
Health authorities in Spain sent a sample to the Barcelona laboratory for the WHO’s influenza division yesterday after tests in Germany, according to a source in the regional health service, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Among the nurse’s co-workers, two were being treated at La Esperanza hospital and a third was being moved to La Esperanza because of a respiratory problem, the source said.