Africa

Ebola outbreak: Doctor becomes first Italian to catch Ebola

Lazzaro Spallanzani national institute for infectious diseases Image copyright AFP
Image caption The doctor is due to arrive at Rome's Lazzaro Spallanzani national institute for infectious diseases

An Italian doctor who contracted Ebola while working for a charity in Sierra Leone is due to be flown back to Rome for treatment, the Italian health ministry has said.

The doctor had been working for an organisation called Emergency before contracting the virus.

It is the first recorded case involving an Italian national.

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 5,450 people, with Sierra Leone among the three worst hit nations.

At least 1,267 people have died in the country, while neighbouring Guinea and Liberia have also been badly affected.

Italy's health ministry said the doctor, who has not been identified, was due to arrive at a specialist hospital for infectious diseases on Monday night or early Tuesday morning.

Officials said the medical worker was in a stable condition and was able to eat and drink without assistance.

A statement from Emergency said staff in Sierra Leone had been observing correct procedure when treating infected patients.

"Nonetheless, no health intervention of such a serious epidemic can be considered completely without risks," it added.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The doctor caught the virus while working in Sierra Leone, one of the worst hit countries

The new case came as a Dutch naval ship arrived in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, at the end of its two week tour to deliver supplies to the nations worst affected by Ebola.

The Karel Doorman was loaded with vehicles and supplies donated by nine European countries and Unicef, the UN children's agency.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf thanked those behind the shipment, saying: "We are never totally free from Ebola until all of the affected countries... are also free from Ebola."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (centre right), with Dutch diplomat Hans Docter

Liberia has been hardest hit of all the affected nations, with nearly 3,000 suspected deaths.

However the number of overall cases has declined in recent weeks.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there have been more than 15,351 recorded cases of Ebola since the beginning of the outbreak - nearly all of them in West Africa.

In Guinea, where at least 1,214 people have died, WHO officials said on Saturday the disease is now "stable".

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said the crisis could be over by the middle of next year if the world speeds up its response.

But he warned that although the rate of new cases was slowing in parts of West Africa, Mali - where six people have died and a seventh case has been reported - was now cause for concern.

Ebola deaths

Figures up to 13 January 2016

11,315

Deaths - probable, confirmed and suspected

(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)

  • 4,809 Liberia

  • 3,955 Sierra Leone

  • 2,536 Guinea

  • 8 Nigeria

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