The doctor who is leading the fight against the Ebola virus epidemic in Sierra Leone has been infected with the disease.
The 39-year-old virologist, Sheik Umar Khan, has received credit for treating in excess of 100 Ebola victims, but has now been admitted to a treatment ward.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 600 people across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have died, including the 19 deaths in the four days prior to the report issued on Saturday.
There is no specific treatment, vaccination or cure for the disease which has a mortality rate of up to 90%. At present, the mortality for the current outbreak is about 60%.
The Health Minister, Miatta Kargbo, broke down when she heard the news about Dr Umar Khan. She has described him as a ‘natural hero’ and has pledged to do everything she possibly can to ensure his survival.
Dr Khan has been taken to an Ebola ward which is run by the medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres. According to the charity the West African outbreak of the disease is out of control.
Dr Khan is not the first healthcare worker to contract the disease over the past few weeks. On Monday, several nurses based at the government hospital in Kenema, one of the top Ebola diagnosis facilities in the world, went on strike after the death of three of their colleagues.
It is not clear how Dr Khan became infected. The disease is transferred via body fluids, such as saliva and sweat, and it has been stated that the doctor was meticulous about wearing mask, overalls, special footwear and gloves. Khan told reporters that he was concerned about contracting Ebola as he values his life. At the time there was no indication that he was ill.
He added that health workers are at risk as they are the first person who sees those affected by the disease. He said that they are still at risk even if they wear full protection.
Image Credit: Matt Price