CAF deploys medical team to Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone
Michael Shulman, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, December 6, 2014 10:01PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 6, 2014 11:56PM EST
The Canadian Armed Forces is sending a medical unit to Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone to help in the fight against the deadly virus.
The team departed Canada on Saturday morning bound for the U.K. where team members will participate in training before being deployed to the West African nation.
Ebola has hit Sierra Leone the hardest, with 1,900 deaths as of Thursday. The outbreak is now concentrated in some northern and west areas of the country, including the capital, Freetown.
Members of the team flew out of CFB Trenton, which is located in southern Ontario.
Master Cpl. Nanette Black said it was an emotional time.
"I'm looking forward to going to Africa to help the people, but it's hard being away from our families at Christmas," Black told CTV Toronto.
In total, the Canadian government will send up to 40 CAF health care and support staff to Sierra Leone. The mission is expected to last six months.
The government is hoping that by preventing the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Canadians at home will be protected as well.
"Infectious disease is a threat," said Brig.-Gen. Jean Robert Bernier. "It's a national security threat as well, so this is also a defence mission. (We are) going after the enemy -- Ebola -- before it gets into our country."
The departure of the Canadian mission comes on the same day that health officials announced that two more Sierra Leonean doctors have died from Ebola. That brings the total of Sierra Leonean doctors killed by Ebola to nine.
Because transmission of Ebola requires close contact with bodily fluids, health workers dealing with patients are among the most at risk of contracting the disease.
Members of the Canadian mission to Sierra Leone said that they will try to minimize risk of exposure.
"As you know Sierra Leone is a very warm country," said Lt.-Col. Gary O'Neil. "They will have to get used to working in that full protective equipment in warm temperatures, so it could be stressful."
The current Ebola outbreak has infected more than 17,500 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Approximately 6,200 have died from the disease.
With a report from CTV Toronto's John Musselman