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First French Ebola patient to be airlifted home

Ebola vaccine trial at the Oxford Vaccine Group Centre , 17 septembre 2014
Ebola vaccine trial at the Oxford Vaccine Group Centre , 17 septembre 2014 Reuters/Steve Parsons/Pool

A French volunteer for the Doctor Withouth Borders (MSF) NGO, infected by the Ebola virus in Liberia, was to be airlifted to Paris on Thursday. The woman is the first French national working in affected areas, to contract the virus .

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"She will be repatriated to France in conditions of maximum security in a specially dedicated air ambulance," said the French health ministry without giving further details about when exactly the patient would be airlifted.

French authorities have readied several hospitals in Paris and the rest of the country to take charge of any potential patients.

But MSF long ago asked the European Union to set up emergency medical evacuation services in neighbouring African countries and on Thursday deplored the fact that no medical aircraft was on hand.

"The medical aircraft took off from the United States," said MSF medical director Bertrand Draguez,. "We had to call on a private company because we have been waiting for help for more than 40 hours now."

The French NGO has more than 2,000 staff fighting the epidemic and warns that medical facilities and hospitals are so overwhelmed by new cases that they are turning people away to die in the streets.

Almost 2,500 people have been killed in west Africa among the 5,000 cases reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

As the Ebola outbreak threatened to spiral out of control, Sierra Leone announced on Thursday that it was ordering the population to stay at home for three days so that 30,000 medical workers can visit the entire 1.5 million population to hand out soap and literature on fighting the virus.

The World Bank said on Wednesday that Ebola could choke off economic activity in affected countries, while the United Nations - which fears 20,000 people could be infected by the end of the year - urged a quick global aid response to the crisis.

The United States pledged on Tuesday to send 3,000 military staff  to west Africa to set up 17 medical centres. 

On Wednesday a healthy British volunteer received a new vaccine as part of tests aiming to produce an effective vaccine by the end of the year.

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