30 Jul 2014

Top Ebola doctor dies from virus

Sierra Leone’s leading Ebola doctor, Sheik Umar Khan, dies from the virus, after treating over 100 patients during the worst outbreak on record.

The doctor leading Sierra Leone’s fight against the worst Ebola outbreak on record died from the virus on Tuesday, the country’s chief medical officer said.

Sheik Umar Khan (pictured above) was credited with treating more than 100 patients, but died from the virus himself on Tuesday, said Sierra Leone’s chief medical officer.

His death follows those of dozens of local health workers and the infection of two American medics in neighbouring Liberia, where the virus has also spread in west Africa.

Ebola is believed to have killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in February, according to the World Health Organisation.

The contagious disease, which has no known cure, has symptoms that include vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding. The fatality rate of the current outbreak is around 60 per cent, but ebola can kill up to 90 per cent of those who catch it.

In the UK, the government’s emergencies committee is to meet to discuss how to tackle the “new and emerging” threat of Ebola, as fears mounted that the deadly virus could spread to the UK.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said no British national so far had been affected by the outbreak, which is centred on west Africa, and there had been no cases in the UK, but he said he would be chairing the government’s Cobra emergencies committee later today to assess the situation.

Public Health England has also urged UK doctors to be alert to symptoms of the disease, that may have been transported through international travel.

Read more from International Editor Lindsey Hilsum, on why poverty is at the heart of the ebola outbreak

The 39-year-old Khan was hailed as a “national hero” by the health ministry, and had been moved to a treatment ward run by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in the far north of Sierra Leone.

He died less than a week after his diagnosis was announced, and shortly before President Ernest Bai Koroma arrived to visit his treatment centre in the northeastern town of Kailahun.

“It is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral hemorrhagic fevers,” said the chief medical officer, Brima Kargbo.

Photo: Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) staff prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun, Sierra Leone