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Ebola: Government task force meets as Taoiseach says outbreak is of "gravest concern"

84 people are being monitored for signs of Ebola in Spain after a nurse was admitted to hospital in Madrid.

Laboratory examination of Ebola
Laboratory examination of Ebola

Updated at midday.

THE TAOISEACH HAS described the current outbreak of Ebola as a grave concern in the wake of new cases in the US and Spain this week and a suspected case in Australia.

It follows a meeting of the Government’s Task Force on Emergency Planning last night to discuss the issue, which was attended by Defence Minister Simon Coveney, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, and Foreign Affairs junior minister Sean Sherlock.

“Clearly this is a matter of the gravest concern for so many countries and we all hear now of suspected cases in places as far away as Australia,” Enda Kenny told reporters today.

He said he had asked Minister Coveney to call the meeting of the emergency panel.

The Task Force, which was established by Government in 2001, includes officials from a range of departments and authorities. Representatives from Transport and Justice were also at yesterday’s meeting.

“As part of the Task Force’s ongoing work there was a meeting held last week which included a detailed discussion on Ebola,” a Defence spokesperson said.

Minister Coveney convened another meeting yesterday evening to have a more detailed discussion in terms of our readiness and capacity should the need arise.

A cross-Departmental group — operated under the remit of the Task Force — has been monitoring evolving events on Ebola over recent months to ensuring the State is ready to deal with any emerging situation.

The lead Departments in the cross-departmental group are Health and Foreign Affairs, while the Task Force itself is always chaired by the Minister for Defence.

Leo Varadkar’s Department “has been in weekly contact with other bodies at both Irish and international level throughout the summer,” a spokesperson said.

“The meeting updated Ministers on developments to date and to ensure that the State is focused and prepared to develop a response capacity for Irish citizens, should the need arise.”

The Taoiseach and the rest of the Cabinet will be briefed on the latest developments at a meeting tomorrow.

Outbreak

Some 3,400 people have died from the virus since the initial outbreak in March. The vast majority of deaths have been limited to West Africa, but in recent days new cases have been reported in Western countries.

Thomas Eric Duncan, who was infected with the disease in Liberia before travelling to the US, died in a Texas Hospital yesterday, while this morning it was reported that an Australian nurse is being assessed after she developed a fever upon her return from Sierra Leone.

A Spanish nurse is also being treated for the virus at a hospital in Madrid. Teresa Romero Ramos is the first person to have caught the virus outside of West Africa since the start of the current outbreak.

Six people are currently in quarantine in Spain as authorities respond to the Madrid case. A further 84 are being monitored for signs of Ebola, according to the latest report from The Guardian.

First posted at 9.50am.

Read: Thomas Eric Duncan, first US Ebola patient, has died > 

Read: Outrage as Spanish authorities plan to euthanise pet dog of infected nurse > 

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Daragh Brophy

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