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Cuban doctor in Sierra Leone says fear an ally against Ebola

Havana, Dec 11 (EFE).- Fear of contagion keeps medical personnel battling Ebola in West Africa from taking unnecessary risks, one of the Cuban doctors working in Sierra Leone said in an interview appearing Thursday in Communist Party daily Granma.

“Fear is our ally because it is always with us: if we stop being afraid, confidence appears and with that, the risk of being infected increases. So, it’s better to be scared,” said Jorge Luis Quiñones, part of the first Cuban health brigade sent to Sierra Leone in early October.

Quiñones, 38, said it was difficult learning that one of his colleagues, Felix Baez, had contracted Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leona because, though the risks exist, most of the foreign health workers see them as remote.

The case of Baez, who has made a full recovery, forced his colleagues to “redouble efforts” to protect themselves, Quiñones said.

Quiñones said the Cuban health workers in Sierra Leone are organized into teams, each comprising one or two doctors and three nurses, and that a given team spends no more than 60 minutes at a stretch in direct contact with patients.

The limit is needed to give them time to recuperate from the additional stress and fatigue that comes with wearing cumbersome protective gear.

The suit includes a waterproof coverall with hat, boots, and two or three pairs of gloves and requires assistance to put on, Quiñones said.

“The most annoying part is the perspiration it causes, until our bodies adapts and the discomfort diminishes,” he said.

Cuba has sent 256 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, the three countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak that has claimed 6,113 lives, according to figures from the World Health Organization.