(Adds details about doctor, statement from his son, paragraphs 8-10)
GENEVA, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A Cuban doctor infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone will be flown to Switzerland in the next 48 hours for treatment in a Geneva hospital, Swiss health authorities said on Wednesday.
The doctor, identified by Cuban officials as Felix Baez, is one of 165 Cuban doctors and nurses treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. He is the first of the group, deployed since early October, known to be infected by the virus that has killed more than 5,400 people.
Baez is being evacuated from the West African country by a private American carrier, with the help of the World Health Organization, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health said in a statement. The WHO said it had no comment on the case.
“The University Hospital of Geneva, where he will be brought, is ready to admit him in accordance with long-established procedures that will ensure the security of all staff and patients,” the Swiss statement said.
A Geneva doctor specializing in infectious diseases is organizing his care in a special hospital room separate from other wards and outpatient clinics at the downtown hospital, it said. “The Swiss population is not at any risk.”
Hospital staff have been trained and rehearsed procedures to put on and remove protective gear, the Swiss statement said.
Two Swiss hospitals are conducting trials of experimental vaccines against the virus. The NewLink vaccine, developed by Canada, is being tested in Geneva, while the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine is being tested in Lausanne.
Baez is a specialist in internal medicine who has worked at a Havana military hospital that also has a prison wing where some high-profile prisoners have been held.
Baez previously treated the late Cuban dissident Oscar Espinosa Chepe while he was imprisoned at the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital, according to the official website LaJiribilla. U.S. foreign aid contractor Alan Gross is serving a 15-year sentence there on his conviction for smuggling banned internet technology into the communist-run country.
“Be strong, Dad, everything’s going to be all right,” the doctor’s son, second-year medical student Alejandro Baez, said in a statement to the official website CubaSi. “All of Cuba is waiting for you.” (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Daniel Trotta in Havana; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Grant McCool)