Dealing with Ebola virus disease in Spain: epidemiological inquiries received by the Department of Public Health Alerts, April to December 2014
We describe the inquiries regarding Ebola virus disease (EVD) received by the Department of Public Health Alerts of the Community of Madrid between April and December 2014. A total of 242 inquiries were received. Consultations were initiated most frequently by hospital clinicians (59 inquiries, 24%), private citizens (57 inquiries, 24%) and primary care physicians (53 inquiries, 22%). The most frequent topic of inquiry was possible EVD in a patient (215 inquiries, 89%). Among these, 31 persons (14%) presented both EVD-compatible symptoms and epidemiological risk factors, and 11 persons (5%) fulfilled the criteria for a person under investigation. Recent travel abroad was reported in 96 persons (45%), but only 32 (15%) had travelled to an EVD-affected area. Two high-risk and one low-risk contact were identified through these inquiries. Low specificity of the EVD symptoms led to many difficulties in protocol application. Ineffective communication with healthcare professionals and unfamiliarity with the EVD protocols caused many case classification errors. A rapid consultation service by telephone is essential for providing qualified advice during emergencies. Our experience may help other countries dimension their activities and resources for managing similar exceptional outbreaks in the future.