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Cuba sets pace in Ebola fight

By Agencies in Havana and Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-23 07:57

Red Cross official says at least four months needed to contain epidemic

Cuba's contribution of hundreds of doctors and nurses to fight Ebola has put the island nation among the most generous contributors to the international response, and it's even thawing relations with the United States.

Cuba, which has a population of 11 million, has sent 165 medical professionals to Sierra Leone, a larger contingent than most Western countries.

An additional 91 Cuban doctors and nurses are to begin work soon in Liberia and Guinea, and the country has pledged to send a further 200.

The island nation's response to the epidemic, which has killed more than 4,500 people in western Africa, has won plaudits from humanitarian workers who say the world community's reaction has been lacking.

"The international response has been slow. ... The virus is spreading faster than we're all setting up," said Sean Casey, director of the International Medical Corps' emergency response team in Liberia, where Cuban advance teams have been laying the groundwork for the new medical team's arrival.

"It's good that the Cubans are coming. We need more countries to step up," he said.

Cuba's contribution has also won plaudits on the international stage - even in the US.

The US welcomed the chance to cooperate in the fight against Ebola, a State Department source told AFP.

"We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Cuba to confront the Ebola outbreak. Cuba is making significant contributions by sending hundreds of health workers to Africa," the source said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged all countries to join the fight against the outbreak in Africa.

"In that spirit, the US Department of State is communicating with all members of the international community, including Cuba, that are involved in this global effort through multilateral channels such as the World Health Organization, as well as diplomatic briefings," the source said.

In an article published in state media on Saturday, Fidel Castro, the retired father of the island's Communist revolution, said Cuba "will gladly cooperate with American personnel" on Ebola.

Range of measures

The Ebola epidemic will take at least four months to contain, even if all necessary steps are taken, the global head of the Red Cross said on Wednesday.

Elhadj As Sy, chief of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, listed a range of measures that would help bring Ebola under control, including "good isolation; good treatment of cases that are confirmed; and good, safe and dignified burials of deceased people".

"It will be possible, as it was possible in the past, to contain this epidemic within four to six months" if the response is adequate, he added.

But closing borders will not effectively curb Ebola infections, Sy said.

"The only solution is how can we join our efforts to contain those kinds of viruses and epidemics at their epicenter, right where they start," Sy said.

In a related development, the US government is closing a gap in Ebola screening at airports.

Under a rule going into effect on Wednesday, air travelers from the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must enter the US through one of five airports doing special screenings and fever checks for Ebola.



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