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Cuban doctor contracts Ebola in S.Leone

19 November 2014, 17:33

Freetown - A Cuban doctor infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone was being flown to Geneva for treatment as the UN warned Wednesday against open defecations amid fears they were helping spread the virus ravaging west Africa.

As efforts to fight the outbreak in the three worst-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea intensify after a lacklustre start, Cuba has played a major role sending around 250 doctors and nurses to the region. Havana has said it plans to send a total of 450.

Felix Baez Sarria, one of about 165 Cuban medics in Sierra Leone, started to feel feverish on Sunday.

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

Also read: 7th doctor dies of Ebola in Sierra Leone

The virus has killed almost 5,200 people, mostly in west Africa with the most casualties recorded in Liberia.

The three countries at the epicentre of the outbreak are among the world's poorest nations with sketchy healthcare and infrastructure facilities that were ravaged by years of inter-linked civil conflicts.

The lack of toilets in the region was fingered 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 toilets, while in Sierra Leone nearly a third of people live without latrines, a new UN report said.

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.

'Nowhere near out of the woods'

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.

The fight against Ebola is far from being won despite some good news from Liberia where the infection rate apparently seems to be slowing, world leaders warned.

"As long as the outbreak continues to rage in the three countries in west Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, this is still going to be a danger not just for America, but for the entire world," US President Barack Obama said.

"We are nowhere near out of the woods yet in West Africa," he said.

The United States has sent nearly 2,200 soldiers to Liberia, Africa's oldest republic formed by freed American slaves, to help in the fight against Ebola.

The Pentagon initially planned to deploy up to 4,000 but now the target level is at 3,000.

The worldwide focus on Ebola has meanwhile worried the British monarch who fears that malaria, which can also be fatal, would be ignored.

"After Ebola we will still have malaria," Queen Elizabeth II said, according to David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

"She was very interested in Ebola because she said her doctor had told her that there were more people dying from malaria every week than are dying from Ebola - and he was right," said Heymann.

"She's afraid that malaria will have a comeback because of the fact people are not paying enough attention to it," he said.



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