Thursday, 31 July 2014

Doctor Who Treated More Than 100 Ebola Patients In Sierra Leone Dies From The Virus


Sheik Umar Khan, a leading virologist in Sierra Leone credited with treating over 100 Ebola patients, has died from the virus.

He became infected earlier this month, and was moved to a treatment ward operated by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in the northern region of the West African nation.
The 39-year-old doctor was described as a "national hero" by Health Minister Miatta Kargbo, for his work to control the outbreak that has taken the lives of more than 200 people in Sierra Leone, and more than 600 throughout West Africa. 

Up to 90 percent of people who become infected with the virus die from it. There is no cure, and no vaccine. 

According to Sierra Leone’s Chief Medical Officer Brima Kargbo, Sierra Leone has lost its only viral haemorrhagic specialist in the face of this epidemic. The doctor was diagnosed with the virus last week.

In a Reuters interview, the late 39-year old Khan had expressed fears for his life before being diagnosed. This was despite his wearing protective gear when treating patients. His fears corroborate a statement made in a CNN interview by Dr. Peter Piot, the first scientist to discover the virus in the 1970s. The doctor says, “this is an epidemic of dysfunctional health systems.” He then goes on to explain how basic sanitary measures can control the spread of the disease.

According to Dr. Piot, Ebola is not particularly easy to catch. In his interview, he says, one needs “really close contact” in order to get infected. “Just being on a bus with someone with Ebola, that’s not a problem,” he says. The WHO states that the virus spreads from direct contact, "(through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and indirect contact with environments contaminated with such fluids."

The virus first appeared in Guinea in March and has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. The WHO reports that as of July 23rd, there has been a total of 1,201 cases and 672 deaths between the three West African countries.

Other West African countries are now taking steps to prevent the spread of the disease to their countries. In light of recent events where a Liberian man boarded a flight to Nigeria and died of the Ebola virus in a Lagos hospital, two airlines, Arik Air and Asky, have suspended flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigerian authorities have also stepped up screening at its airports, and claim to be tracking those who came into contact with the Liberian passenger.

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