A Cuban doctor treating Ebola patients in West Africa is to be flown to Geneva after testing positive for the disease. The diagnosis comes after a seventh Sierra Leonean doctor died of the virus.
The doctor, identified by Cuban state media as Felix Baez, is part of the 165-member medical team Cuba sent to Sierra Leone in October to help fight Ebola. He is the first Cuban to contract the deadly virus.
Baez is undergoing treatment in Africa, and is expected to be transferred to a special unit in Geneva at the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a statement from Cuba's Ministry of Public Health, cited by state media.
The internal medicine specialist came down with a fever on Sunday and was taken to the capital Freetown, where he was diagnosed with the virus the following day. He has not shown complications, and is being "tended to by a team of British professionals with experience in treating patients who have displayed the disease," the ministry's statement said. Cuban officials did not say how Baez caught the disease or release information about his whereabouts in Sierra Leone.
Cuba has sent at least 256 medical workers to complete six-month missions in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea - a move that drew praise from the international community. Cuba's doctors and nurses underwent up to three weeks of extensive training, with practice working in protective body suits, before being dispatched to the Ebola-hit region.
Seventh doctor dies in Sierra Leone
News of the Cuban doctor's infection emerged one day after Sierra Leone's Health Ministry confirmed it had lost its seventh doctor to the virus. According to news agency Reuters, more than 120 of the country's health personnel working in treatment centers have contracted the disease, which can only be spread by close contact with bodily fluids.
Dr. Moses Kargbo died Tuesday at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center east of Freetown where he had been receiving treatment.
According to the latest estimates from the WHO, Ebola has killed 5,177 people, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
On Monday, US officials reported the death of Dr. Martin Salia, a US resident who contracted Ebola in his native Sierra Leone and was evacuated to the US state of Nebraska for emergency treatment over the weekend.
Obama: 'stamp out the disease'
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Congress to approve his request for $6.2 billion (4.9 billion euros) in emergency spending to combat the spread of Ebola in West Africa and the US.
Ahead of a meeting with his Ebola response team, Obama said West Africa was "nowhere near out of the woods" in its fight against the virus, adding that it was important to "continue to push forward until we stamp out this disease entirely in that region. Until we do, there are threats of additional outbreaks and, given the nature of international travel, it means that everybody has some measure of risk."
nm/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)