Washington (AFP) - A doctor from Sierra Leone infected with Ebola was flown to the United States early Saturday to be treated for the deadly virus, medical officials told AFP.
The flight carrying Martin Salia left the airport at Sierra Leone's capital Freetown at 2:30 am (GMT), Brima Kargbo, the country's chief medical officer, told AFP.
The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha -- one of a handful of medical facilities in the United States specially designated to treat Ebola patients -- said he would arrive at around 5 pm (2200 GMT), a couple of hours later than previously announced.
Salia, who has legal resident status in the United States, had been treating Ebola patients at Freetown's Connaught Hospital when he became infected.
His evacuation is being facilitated by the US government at the request of his wife, an American citizen who agreed to reimburse all expenses, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
"Just as we have done in previous cases, every precaution is being taken to ensure the evacuation is completed safely and securely, that critical care is provided en route, and that strict isolation is maintained," Psaki said.
Doctors have said they were told that Salia is "critically ill."
They said his exact condition would be evaluated when he arrives, but that he is "possibly sicker than the first patients successfully treated in the United States."
Salia will be the third person treated for Ebola at the Nebraska Medical Center. Both of the previous patients survived.
"We immediately started preparing the unit and notifying staff members of this possibility," Phil Smith, bio-containment unit medical director, said in a statement.
"We've obviously been through this a couple of times before so we know what to expect."
CNN had reported that Salia has several children.
There are currently no cases of Ebola in the United States, where nine people have been treated for the killer virus. Only one -- Liberian-born Thomas Eric Duncan -- has died from the disease on US soil.
The cases are part of the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever, which has killed more than 5,100 people in West Africa and infected nearly 15,000 in total, mostly in hardest hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Despite some hopeful signs -- Liberia has lifted its state of emergency and the DR Congo announced the end of its own, unrelated, outbreak of Ebola -- the recent deaths of three people in Mali have fueled fears of a new African hotspot.
There is no known cure for Ebola, one of the deadliest known pathogens which spreads through contact with bodily fluids, but trials for several possible treatments were announced this week in West Africa and Canada.