The late 39-year old doctor Khan had expressed fears for his life despite wearing protective gear when treating patients.
Sheik Umar Khan, the Sierra Leonean doctor hailed as a “national hero” for treating more than one hundred Ebola patients, died today of the same disease.
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.
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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.
The fatality rate is currently 60% though the disease can kill up to 90% of those infected