10/07/2014 12:31 EDT | Updated 12/07/2014 05:59 EST

Canada sends Hercules aircraft to deliver protective equipment to Ebola zone

TORONTO - Canada has sent a Hercules aircraft to West Africa to deliver protective medical equipment the World Health Organization badly needs there.

The federal government announced Monday that a Hercules aircraft left CFB Trenton, Ont., to transport plastic face shields used by health teams working on the Ebola response.

The aircraft was destined for Freetown, Sierra Leone bearing 128,000 face shields donated to the WHO by the government of Canada.

The WHO had requested 300,000 face shields; another shipment will be sent within the next week, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

Last month the federal government announced it would make $2.5 million worth of personal protective equipment available to the WHO for the Ebola response.

Called PPE for short, the equipment includes gowns, aprons, gloves, face shields and other parts of the layers of gear worn by health-care workers treating Ebola patients. The face shields protect against splashes of fluids that might infect if they made their way to the mucus membranes of the mouth, nostrils or eyes.

Canada has been trying to send the face shields to Sierra Leone, but had been unable to find a carrier willing to transport the material, Dr. Greg Taylor, Canada's chief public health officer, said last week.

"We're having some difficulty shipping this because of the fear. Some of the airline companies we contacted did not want to ship to that country," he said.

Taylor said last week that other parts of the Canadian donation would be shipped by sea, because the WHO has said they are not needed urgently. As well, a number of provinces have said they are willing to donate protective equipment. The Public Health Agency is co-ordinating that work to ensure that only equipment that is needed is sent.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version wrongly described a Hercules aircraft as a jet.