Cuban doctor in Sierra Leone tests positive for Ebola

ebola_3111408b[1]A Cuban doctor infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone is being flown to Geneva for treatment, the first Cuban known to have contracted the potentially deadly haemorrhagic fever.

The doctor, identified by Cuba’s official website Cubadebate on Tuesday as Felix Baez, is one of 165 Cuban doctors and nurses treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. They have been there since early October.

They are part of a Cuban team of 256 medical professionals sent to West Africa to treat patients in the worst Ebola outbreak on record that has killed more than 5,000 people.

Mr Baez, a specialist in internal medicine, had a fever on Sunday and tested positive on Monday after being taken to the capital Freetown, Cubadebate reported, citing a Health Ministry statement. He has not shown complications and is “hemodynamically stable,” the statement said.

“Our collaborator is being tended to by a team of British professionals with experience in treating patients who have displayed the disease and they have maintained constant communication with our brigade,” the statement said.

The 43-year-old is currently in a Red Cross centre near the capital Freetown, his boss, Doctor Jorge Delgado Butillo, told news agency AFP.

“He’s not critical, he’s doing well, in a good condition,” Butillo said. “The most important thing now is to get him evacuated to Geneva pretty soon.”

The Cuban commitment to treating Ebola patients in West Africa has won international praise as more substantial than contributions from many wealthy countries. Among those recognising Cuba has been the United States, its political adversary for the past 55 years.

Some Cuban 165 doctors and nurses have gone to Sierra Leone for a six-month mission, with another 53 in Liberia and 38 in Guinea.

Another 205 have undergone three weeks of training, with extensive practice in using protective full-body suits, and are ready to receive an Ebola assignment.

The Communist-run island has practised medical diplomacy since Fidel Castro came to power in a 1959 revolution.

While Cuba provides disaster relief around the world free of charge, it also exchanges doctors for cash or goods on more routine missions. The island receives an estimated 100,000 barrels of oil per day from Venezuela, where some 30,000 Cuban medical professionals are posted.

In all, there are more than 50,000 health workers in 67 countries.

The latest WHO tally on Nov. 14 reported 5,177 Ebola deaths out of 14,133 cases, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The three countries at the epicentre of the outbreak are among the world’s poorest nations with sketchy health care and infrastructure facilities that were ravaged by years of interlinked civil conflicts.

The lack of lavatories in the region was pegged by the United Nations as a possible cause for the spread of the highly contagious and deadly disease.

Half the population of Liberia, the country worst hit by the epidemic, have no access to lavatories, while in Sierra Leone nearly a third of people live without latrines, a new UN report said on Wednesday.

Before it was declared Ebola-free last month, Nigeria warned against defecating in the open to guard against the virus, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids.

The oil-rich west African country of Equatorial Guinea meanwhile hired 50 Cuban doctors to contain the outbreak of Ebola during the Africa Cup of Nations next year, an official source said.

It took over the organisation of the continental football tournament at the 11th hour last week when Morocco was stripped of the right to host the event after it expressed fears over the deadly virus being transmitted by visiting supporters and requested a postponement.

The Cuban doctors are expected to arrive in the next few days, government television reported.

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