Ebola virus (file)
Ebola virus (file)Thinkstock

A Spanish nurse has become the first person to contract Ebola outside of Africa, the Spanish Health Ministry announced late Monday night, in the third documented case of Ebola in Europe. 

Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, 75, is thought to have brought the disease to Madrid's La Paz-Carlos III hospital in August, after he returned from a mission in heavily-infected Liberia. 

Pajaras died on August 12 from the virus; a second priest returning from Sierra Leone - Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69 - was treated at the same hospital and died last week. 

Now, the forty-year-old nurse who treated both priests has been diagnosed with symptoms of the disease, and is being treated in isolation in Alcorcon, a southern Madrid suburb.

The nurse's condition is stable, Madrid's primary healthcare director, Antonio Alemany, stated Monday. Meanwhile, Spanish authorities have launched an investigation into the infection. 

"We are working to see if all the protocols which were established were strictly followed," Health Minister Ana Mato told the news conference. "Spain follows all the recommendations of the World Health Organization." 

The medical team monitoring the priests was closely watched throughout the process, Alemany said. 

To prevent further infection, Spanish officials are now tracing all contacts the nurse may have had, Marc Sprenger, director of the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told BBC.

"It's extremely important," Sprenger stated. "We need to follow up all contacts in Europe and I'm sure that the Spanish authorities are doing this. It's a very serious business."

Ebola has infected some 7,200 people worldwide, Reuters reported Monday, including five known cases in the US. 

Despite widespread hysteria over the disease, US President Barack Obama stated that he would not institute a travel ban on West African countries - claiming that doing so would hinder the fight against the disease, not help.