HAVANA/GENEVA (Reuters) - A Cuban doctor who contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone returned home to Cuba on Saturday, cured after 16 days in a Geneva hospital where he received an experimental treatment.
Felix Baez, 43, was one of 256 Cuban doctors and nurses who went to West Africa to treat patients from the worst outbreak of the virus on record, which has killed more than 6,000 people.
Baez was met at Havana's Jose Marti airport by his wife, elder son and Health Minister Roberto Morales, among others, officials said.
"There was celebration and happiness, hugs and kisses," said Jorge Perez, the director of Havana's leading tropical diseases hospital, who traveled with Baez from Geneva.
The Cuban Ebola commitment has won wide international praise, and the 256 who went to West Africa were among 15,000 volunteers and 461 who trained for the mission, officials said.
Baez began showing a fever on Nov. 16, tested positive for Ebola on Nov. 17 and flew to Geneva on Nov. 20. Officials first said he was free of the virus on Friday.
Soon after arriving in Geneva, Baez received the Canadian experimental treatment ZMab, a precursor to the Ebola drug ZMapp, which has been used to treat U.S. patients.
"Two days afterwards he was already much better," Geneva's chief medical officer Jacques-André Romand, told Reuters, adding that the same drug had been sent to Rome to treat an Italian doctor battling the virus.
A hospital spokeswoman said he received both ZMab and the untested flu drug favipiravir, made by Japan's Fujifilm, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has included on a list of potential Ebola treatments.
Baez was hospitalized in Geneva at the request of the WHO, which is headquartered in the city, after he contracted the disease in Sierra Leone, one of the countries worst hit by the outbreak.
Out of 138 health care workers who have caught the disease in Sierra Leone, 106 have died, a much higher fatality rate than among health workers in neighboring Guinea and Liberia, WHO data published on Wednesday showed.
Two more doctors died in Sierra Leone on Friday, a government and hospital source said.
Baez was treated in isolation in the Geneva hospital for 16 days. At no time was there any risk of transmission to the local population, Romand said.