A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as health workers tried to determine how a fourth scientist also contracted the disease before being evacuated to Europe. The announcements raised worries about Sierra Leone’s fight against Ebola, which already has killed more than 1,400 people across West Africa. The World Health Organization said it was sending a team to investigate how the epidemiologist now undergoing treatment in Germany may have contracted the disease that kills more than half its victims. “The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits,” said Christy Feig, director of WHO communications. Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working at a hospital in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted Ebola, said Sierra Leonean presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo on Wednesday. Two other top doctors already have succumbed to Ebola since the outbreak emerged there earlier this year, including Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who also treated patients in Kenema. Rogers’ death marks yet another setback for Sierra Leone, a country still recovering from years of civil war, where there are only two doctors per 100,000 people, according to WHO. By comparison, there are 245 doctors per 100,000 in the United States. The Senegalese epidemiologist who was evacuated to Germany had been doing surveillance work for the U.N. health agency, said Feig, the WHO spokeswoman.
The position involves coordinating the outbreak response by working with lab experts, health workers and hospitals, but does not usually involve direct treatment of patients. “He wasn’t in treatment centers normally,” she said by telephone from Sierra Leone. “It’s possible he went in there and wasn’t properly covered, but that’s why we’ve taken this unusual measure — to try to figure out what happened.” WHO said late Tuesday that it was pulling out its team from the eastern Sierra Leonean city of Kailahun, where the epidemiologist working with the organization was recently infected. The team was exhausted and the added stress of a colleague getting sick could increase the risk of mistakes, said Daniel Kertesz, the organization’s representative in the country. Canada also announced late Tuesday it was evacuating a three-member mobile laboratory team from Sierra Leone after people in their hotel were diagnosed with Ebola. The Public Agency of Canada said none of the team members was showing any signs of illness but that they would remain in voluntary isolation during the 21-day incubation period. Health workers have been especially vulnerable because of their close proximity to patients, who can spread the virus through bodily fluids. WHO says more than 120 health workers have died in the four affected countries — Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. While some local health workers have lacked proper protective gear, the teams from the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders are usually well-equipped and trained in how to use the protective suiting. ABC NEWS
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