US & Canada

Ebola crisis: US says Cuban medical support 'welcome'

Ebola victim in Liberia, 15 Oct Image copyright EPA
Image caption The disease has killed about 4,500 people so far, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone

Cuba is a "welcome" addition to the fight against Ebola, a senior US official has said.

A state department spokesman said the Cuban government was doing more than many others to contain the disease. "We welcome their support," she said.

The US has maintained an embargo on Cuba for more than five decades.

Last month, Havana announced it would send about 450 medical and support staff to the region.

The BBC's Will Grant in Havana said that Cuba already had a tradition of sending its doctors and nurses to Africa before the recent Ebola outbreak.

Cuban officials are hosting a regional summit on the virus next week involving left-wing Latin American governments.

Health ministers from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador are expected to attend to discuss how to bolster the region's response to the Ebola crisis.

So far the outbreak has killed about 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

On Wednesday the head of a United Nations agency said a food crisis could soon hit the affected West African states.

Kanayo Nwanze, president of the UN's International Fund for Agriculture, said farmers in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia had abandoned their crops because of fear of catching the disease.

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that a major Ebola outbreak in the West was unlikely.

How not to catch Ebola:

  • Avoid direct contact with sick patients as the virus is spread through contaminated body fluids
  • Wear goggles to protect eyes
  • Clothing and clinical waste should be incinerated and any medical equipment that needs to be kept should be decontaminated
  • People who recover from Ebola should abstain from sex or use condoms for three months

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