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Africa

Spanish missionary repatriated after contracting Ebola

© AFP, archive photo

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-08-06

A Spanish air force plane departed Wednesday for Liberia to fly home a 75-year-old Spanish missionary infected with Ebola, the first patient to be returned to Europe in a fast-spreading outbreak of the deadly disease.

The military Airbus A310, equipped overnight for a medical evacuation, took off for the west African country from Madrid's Torrejon military air base at around 1:30pm (1130 GMT), the defence ministry said in a Twitter message.

Miguel Pajares, a Roman Catholic priest, tested positive for Ebola at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia where he was employed, according to the Spanish aid organisation he works for, Juan Ciudad ONGD.

The outbreak of the deadly haemorrhagic fever has overwhelmed rudimentary healthcare systems and prompted the deployment of troops to quarantine the worst-hit areas in the remote border region of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported 45 new deaths in the three days to August 4, and its experts began an emergency meeting in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss whether the outbreak constitutes a "Public Health Emergency of International Concern" and to discuss new measures to prevent it from spreading.

At least 932 dead

International alarm at the spread of the disease increased when a US citizen died in Nigeria late last month after flying there from Liberia. The health minister said on Wednesday that a Nigerian nurse who had treated the deceased Patrick Sawyer had herself died of Ebola, and five other people were being treated in an isolation ward in Lagos, Africa's largest city.

In Saudi Arabia, a man suspected of contracting Ebola during a recent business trip to Sierra Leone also died early on Wednesday in Jeddah, the Health Ministry said. Saudi Arabia has already suspended pilgrimage visas from West African countries, which could prevent those hoping to visit Mecca for the Haj in early October.

Since breaking out earlier this year, the disease has claimed 932 lives and infected more than 1,700 people across West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

Other cases have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The Spanish priest will be the first person infected in the African outbreak to be repatriated to Europe for treatment.

Two Americans who worked for Christian aid agencies in Liberia and were infected with Ebola while taking care of patients in Monrovia were brought back to the United States for treatment in recent days.

The Spanish patient, who has worked in Liberia for more than five decades, welcomed the news that he would be repatriated.

"This news has lifted my spirits, it is great, I am very happy. It is worth fighting on," he told the online edition of daily Spanish newspaper ABC by telephone.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-08-06

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