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Cuba Says Doctor Catches Ebola in Sierra Leone
HAVANA — Nov 19, 2014, 12:15 AM ET
By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN Associated Press

A member of the 165-member medical team Cuba sent to fight Ebola in
Sierra Leone has been diagnosed with the disease, state media reported
Tuesday.

Dr. Felix Baez Sarria is being treated by British doctors in Africa but
he will be transferred to a special unit in Geneva at the recommendation
of the World Health Organization, state media said, citing the Cuban
Ministry of Public Health.

Cuba won global praise for sending at least 256 medical workers to
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to help treat Ebola patients. State
officials have emphasized the medics’ high state of readiness for the
mission, saying the doctors, nurses and support staff received weeks of
instruction in protective measures and equipment.

Once in Africa, the Cubans got two to three weeks of additional training
before heading into the field. They were to be quarantined in Africa for
weeks at the end of their six-month mission before returning to Cuba.

State media said that Baez, an internal medicine specialist, came down
with a fever of more than 100 degrees on Sunday and was diagnosed with
Ebola the following day.

Cuban officials did not immediately release any other information about
the case, the first reported among the health workers the island sent to
Africa as part of a half-century-old strategy that puts doctors on the
front lines of the country’s foreign policy.

This island of 11 million people is one of the largest global
contributors of medical workers to the fight against Ebola, a commitment
that has drawn rare praise from the U.S. and focused worldwide attention
on Cuba’s unique program of medical diplomacy, which deploys armies of
doctors to win friends abroad and earn billions a year in desperately
needed foreign exchange.

Cuba has more than 50,000 medical workers in more than 60 countries,
many in nations like Brazil that pay hundreds of millions a year for
their services. Others are on humanitarian missions that generate good
will abroad.

Despite a recent set of pay raises, most Cuban doctors’ salaries don’t
top $75 a month, less than many workers in tourism or other sectors that
bring in money from abroad. The foreign missions almost uniformly offer
the chance to earn extra pay, in many cases enough to buy a bigger home
or new car.

Critics of Cuba’s communist government have accused it in the past of
exploiting the doctors by giving them only a small portion of the money
paid for their services and keeping the rest.

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Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

Source: Cuba Says Doctor Catches Ebola in Sierra Leone – ABC News –
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/cuba-doctor-catches-ebola-sierra-leone-27013838

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