Cuba to send doctors to Ebola areas

By Smitha Mundasad
Health reporter, BBC News

  • Published
Baby tested for Ebola
Image caption,
In some affected countries there are very few doctors available to tackle the disease

Cuba is sending 165 health workers to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, officials say.

Doctors, nurses and infection control specialists will travel to Sierra Leone in October and stay for six months.

The announcement comes as the World Health Organization says new cases in West Africa are increasing faster than the capacity to manage them.

More than 2,400 people have died from the virus in recent months and some 4,700 people have been infected.

The death toll remains highest in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

World Health Organization (WHO) officials say the number of people affected is likely to be much greater than current estimates suggest.

In Liberia WHO experts say there is not a single bed left to treat patients with Ebola.

But the world football association, Fifa, says it is joining forces with the United Nations to turn the country's national stadium into a large-scale Ebola treatment unit.

Dr Margaret Chan, director of the WHO, said: "If we are going to go to war with Ebola we need the resources to fight.

"I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Cuban government and these health professionals for doing their part to help us contain the worst Ebola outbreak ever known."

'Health diplomacy'

She added: "Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses and for its generosity in helping fellow countries on the route to progress."

Through a global medical programme, doctors have been deployed to a range of countries, from Algeria to South Africa.

And many consider this medical help to be a central part of Cuba's international relations.

One of Cuba's most extensive efforts is an eye surgery programme in Venezuela where thousands of cataract operations have been performed.

Hundreds of Cuban medical workers were sent to Haiti during the earthquake in 2010.

The country also trains thousands of overseas medical students, many of whom return to their home nations to work.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Image source, Science Photo Library
  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and severe headaches
  • Fatality rate can reach 90%
  • Incubation period is two to 21 days
  • There is no vaccine or cure
  • Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
  • Fruit bats are considered to be virus' natural host