Spain sends plane to evacuate missionary with Ebola

A woman washes her hands with chlorine water to prevent contracting Ebola at a public health centre on July 31, 2014, in Monrovia. -- PHOTO: AFP
A woman washes her hands with chlorine water to prevent contracting Ebola at a public health centre on July 31, 2014, in Monrovia. -- PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP) - Spain’s government said on Wednesday it will send an air force plane to Liberia within hours to fly an elderly Spanish missionary infected with Ebola back home for treatment.

Mr Miguel Pajares, a 75-year-old Roman Catholic priest, has tested positive for Ebola at a hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia where he worked, according to the Spanish aid organisation he works for.

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.

“It could leave in the next hour,” the spokesman told AFP.

“As soon as it is ready it will leave.” 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, the last seven years at the Saint Joseph Hospital.

Two other women who were in quarantine at the same hospital also tested positive for Ebola, Spanish aid organisation Juan Ciudad ONGD said 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.

- ‘We could get better’ -

Ebola, a deadly tropical virus that causes severe fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding, has claimed the lives of almost 900 people in four west African nations since the start of the year.

During an interview broadcast on Monday, Pajares said he and the other missionaries in quarantine would like 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 is transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, and people who live with or care for patients are most at risk.