An Italian doctor released from hospital after being cured of Ebola says he plans to return to Sierra Leone where he contracted the deadly virus. The health worker is Italy's first Ebola patient.
Fabrizio Pulvirenti was discharged from Rome's Lazzaro Spallanzani hospital on Friday, more than a month after being flown in from Sierra Leone where he had been treating Ebola patients. Now the 50-year-old says he intends to return to Ebola-hit West Africa.
"Returning to Sierra Leone, even if for a short period, is part of my plans, so that I may finish what I had started," Pulvirenti told Italian media on Friday, after his doctors gave him the all clear.
Pulvirenti is the first Italian to have contracted the virus. He started showing symptoms in November while working in Sierra Leone for the Italian-based medical charity Emergency. After arriving in Rome on November 25, his condition deteriorated and he was moved to intensive care.
Hospital officials said Pulvirenti made a full recovery after being treated with plasma taken from survivors of the disease and experimental drugs never before used in Italy. Further details about his treatment are expected to be released at the end of January.
The hospital's scientific director, Giuseppe Ippolito, said Pulvirenti's blood, which now contains antibodies able to fight the virus, will be sent to Sierra Leone to create plasma that can be used to cure other patients.
Ebola deaths close to 8,000
According to figures from the World Health Organization, at least 7,905 people have died from Ebola and at least 20,206 people have been infected with the virus since it broke out in West Africa about a year ago.
The disease is continuing to spread in the region, particularly in Sierra Leone.
"It's going to go on for not just weeks but some months more," Anthony Banbury, the outgoing chief of the United Nations' anti-Ebola mission said on Friday.
"But I believe we will do it in 2015 and we're going to do it by working very closely not just with governments of the countries but the communities."
The Ebola virus causes a form of hemorrhagic fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and is transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood.
nm/ipj (AP, Reuters, dpa)