Spain bringing missionary infected with Ebola home

2014-09-21 08:28

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Madrid - Spain is sending a plane to fly a Catholic missionary infected with the deadly Ebola virus home from Sierra Leone, officials said on Saturday.

Brother Manuel Garcia Viejo, 69, director of a hospital in the Sierra Leonean town of Lunsar, "has tested positive (for Ebola) and has expressed his desire to be transferred to Spain", the health ministry said in a statement.

He is the second Spaniard to contract Ebola in the current outbreak.

"In the coming hours a medical plane from the defence ministry will set off for Sierra Leone, carrying two doctors and three nurses with all the equipment necessary to protect the personnel and maintain the treatment of the patient," it said.

It said the risk to public health in Spain from the patient was "practically nil".

Being treated in an Ebola unit

Garcia is a member of the Hospital Order of San Juan de Dios, a Roman Catholic group that runs Juan Ciudad, a charity working with Ebola victims.

On Saturday he was being treated in an Ebola unit in the Sierra Leone capital Freetown, the order said in a statement.

Garcia, a specialist in internal medicine, is also qualified in tropical medicine. He has worked in Africa for 30 years and has been director of the hospital in Lunsar for the past 12 years, it said.

Sierra Leone on Saturday began the second day of a 72-hour nationwide shutdown aimed at containing the spread of the deadly virus.

Most of the country's six million people were confined to their homes from midnight (0000 GMT) on Friday, with only essential workers such as health professionals and security forces exempt.

Spanish health officials did not expect the curfew to impede their efforts to fly Garcia out of the country, however.

The ministry said late Saturday that his repatriation would take place "in the coming hours" and he would be taken straight to Madrid's La Paz-Carlos III hospital.

2 600+ killed

In August a 75-year-old Spanish priest became the first European to die from Ebola during the current outbreak in west Africa, the worst since the disease was first discovered four decades ago.

That missionary, Miguel Pajares, was infected in Liberia, where he worked with Ebola patients.
The epidemic has so far killed more than 2 600 people in west Africa, the UN World Health Organisation said on Thursday.

No vaccine or medicine is available for treating Ebola. Pajares was treated with an experimental US serum, ZMapp, while in isolation in La Paz-Carlos III.

The virus causes severe muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and - in some cases - unstoppable internal and external bleeding.

British nurse William Pooley, 29, who was infected with Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, recovered this month following treatment with ZMapp.

France on Friday authorised "experimental treatments" for a French nurse with Ebola who was flown back from Liberia.

Read more on:    spain  |  sierra leone  |  west africa  |  ebola

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