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Spain sends plane to evacuate missionary with Ebola

Spain's government has said it will send an air force plane to Liberia to fly an elderly Spanish missionary, Miguel Pajares, infected with Ebola back home for treatment.

MADRID: Spain's government said on Wednesday (Aug 6) it will send an air force plane to Liberia to fly an elderly Spanish missionary infected with Ebola back home for treatment.

"This news lifts my spirits, it's great, I am very happy, it is worth fighting," the 75-year-old Roman Catholic priest, Miguel Pajares, told the online edition of daily Spanish newspaper ABC by telephone. Pajares tested positive for Ebola at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia where he has worked for the past seven years, Spanish aid organisation Juan Ciudad ONG said on Tuesday.

Since breaking out earlier this year, the tropical virus has claimed almost 900 lives and infected more than 1,603 people across west Africa. The other cases have been reported in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, which on Wednesday confirmed five new cases of Ebola in Lagos and a second death from the virus.

Spain has equipped a military Airbus A310 for a medical evacuation and is to send the aircraft shortly to the West African nation to retrieve the missionary, a Defence Ministry spokesman said. "As soon as it is ready it will leave," the spokesman told AFP. The Airbus A310, based at Madrid's Torrejon military air base, was equipped overnight and a military medical team has been trained for the operation, the spokesman said.

Spain's health ministry said no decision had been taken on where the priest would be treated. Madrid's La Paz hospital, reportedly a possible destination, said it had not received confirmation that it would be treating him.

The priest has been in quarantine at the Saint Joseph Hospital in Monrovia, along with five other missionaries, since the death on Saturday of the hospital's director from Ebola. Pajares has worked in Liberia for over five decades.

'DIE FROM ABANDONMENT'

Two other women who were in quarantine at the same hospital also tested positive for Ebola, Juan Ciudad ONGD, which runs hospitals around the world, added in a statement. The aid organisation said it had asked the Spanish foreign ministry to urgently fly out Pajares and the two other infected Roman Catholic Sisters: Chantal Pascale of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Paciencia Melgar Ronda of Equatorial Guinea.

"The situation is very serious in Liberia. Many people are dying. People are not being well cared for," Melgar Ronda said during an interview with Spanish public television TVE. "There is no strong organisation to end this disease. There are not enough means. The majority of people die from abandonment."

During an interview broadcast on Monday, Pajares said he and the other missionaries wanted to be taken to Spain for treatment. "I have a fever. I don't have any appetite, I could go without eating anything, I have a lot of pain in my joints. I need help to move from one place to the other," he told CNN en Espanol, a 24-hour Spanish-language news network. "We hope that we can be evacuated. For us it would be a huge joy because if we are taken to Spain we would be in good hands and we could get better, God willing," he added.

Two Americans who worked for Christian aid agencies in Liberia and were infected with Ebola while taking care of patients in Monrovia were brought back to the United States for treatment in recent days. Both patients were flown home on a Gulfstream private jet which had been fitted with a collapsible, mobile isolation unit designed to transfer employees from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exposed to contagious diseases.

Ebola causes severe fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding. It is transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, and people who live with or care for patients are most at risk. 

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