HAVANA/GENEVA A Cuban doctor who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and was cured after experimental treatment in a Swiss hospital vowed on Saturday to return to West Africa and continue treating patients.
"I will finish what I started. I am returning to Sierra Leone," Felix Baez, 43, told reporters at Havana's Jose Marti airport shortly after landing, the official website Cubadebate reported.
It was not immediately clear if Cuban health officials would allow Baez to go back to Africa.
Cuba has won international praise for its contribution to fight the worst outbreak of Ebola on record, which has killed more than 6,000 people. Some 200 doctors and nurses are on standby for an Ebola assignment in West Africa, in addition to the 256 already sent to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Health Minister Roberto Morales and other ministry officials were at the airport to greet Baez, who wore a blue T-shirt emblazoned with the logo of Geneva University Hospitals, where he spent 16 days being treated in isolation.
Baez was quickly reunited with his wife and eldest son, who is studying medicine.
"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.
Soon after arriving in Geneva on Nov. 20, 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.
Romand added that at no time during Baez's treatment was there any risk of transmission to the local population.
A hospital spokeswoman said Baez received both ZMab and the untested flu drug favipiravir, made by Japan's Fujifilm (4901.T), which the World Health Organization (WHO) has included on a list of potential Ebola treatments.
Out of 138 healthcare 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.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in Havana and Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)