Chief Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone has contracted the deadly disease himself

The virus has mortality rates of up to 90 per cent

The “national hero” chief doctor leading the fight against the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone has himself been infected with the disease, the president’s office has announced.

Sheik Umar Khan, a 39-year-old virologist who is personally credited with treating more than 100 Ebola victims, has now been admitted to a treatment ward at the heart of the outbreak in Kailahun.

According to the latest data from the World Health Organisation, the virus has killed more than 600 people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – including 19 new deaths in just the four days prior to Saturday’s report.

There is no vaccination, specific treatment or cure for Ebola, which has in the past killed up to 90 per cent of those infected. The mortality rate of the present outbreak currently stands at around 60 per cent.

In the statement from the president’s office, the Health Minister Miatta Kargbo said she was in tears when she heard the news about Dr Khan. She described him as a “national hero” and pledged to do “anything and everything in my power to ensure he survives”.

Sheik Umar Khan, head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone in Freetown, June 25, 2014 Sheik Umar Khan, head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone in Freetown, June 25, 2014 Dr Khan was taken to an Ebola ward run by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has in recent weeks described the disease’s West African outbreak as “out of control”.

He is not the first health worker to contract the disease in recent weeks, and on Monday dozens of nurses at the government hospital in Kenema – one of the world’s leading Ebola diagnosis facilities – went on strike following the death of three colleagues, the BBC reported.

It was nonetheless not immediately clear how Dr Khan came to be infected. The disease is passed on through bodily fluids such as sweat and saliva – but on a visit to the Kenema facility in late June, Reuters reporters heard how the doctor was “always meticulous with protection, wearing overalls, mask, gloves and special footwear”.

Video: Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone

Nevertheless, Khan told reporters he was worried about the prospect of contracting Ebola. “I am afraid for my life, I must say, because I cherish my life,” he said in an interview, showing no signs of ill health at the time.

“Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease. Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee