The moment Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan accidentally contracted the Ebola virus he so diligently worked to eradicate, his fate was sealed. Khan, 39, was hailed as a “national hero” by the Health Ministry for his service but he succumbed to the virus less than a week after the situation was revealed to the public.
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.
The death of Sheik Umar Khan, who was credited with treating more than 100 patients, follows the deaths of dozens of local health workers and the infection of two American medics in neighbouring Liberia, highlighting the dangers faced by staff trying to halt the disease’s spread across 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.
He died on Tuesday afternoon, less than a week after his diagnosis was announced, and on the same day that President Ernest Bai Koroma was due to visit his treatment centre in the northeastern town of Kailahun.
On Monday, a U.S. administration official said President Barack Obama was receiving updates and noted that U.S. agencies had stepped up assistance to help contain the virus.
Brima Kargbo, the chief medical officer on duty, expressed the double blow their operation suffered by calling it “a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral haemorrhagic fevers.”
Three nurses have also reportedly died in the same treatment center where Khan worked.