Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s national hero due to his work in treating those with the deadly Ebola virus, has caught the disease. The Ebola doctor has since died after treating over 100 patients.

The current Ebola outbreak is the worst ever recorded, spanning three countries with over 1,000 people infected and 604 dead. Historically, Ebola killed 90 percent of those infected, but with improved awareness allowing the disease to be caught earlier, it has dropped to 60 percent. Once symptoms appear the disease is highly contagious and patients must be treated in isolation units. Those treating the patients are at a high risk for contracting the virus.

At the hospital where Dr. Khan was working, in the city of Kenema, nurses complained of improper equipment to protect them from Ebola. After eight nurses caught the disease in one week, and three died, the nurses went on strike and Doctors Without Borders stepped in to address the situation at the hospital, but not before Dr. Khan fell ill.

Dr. Khan was being treated in an isolation unit by Doctors Without Borders. It has now been confirmed that the Ebola doctor has died from the virus.

Most people who die from Ebola do so within 10 days of falling ill, due to hemorrhaging. The first recorded instance of humans contracting Ebola was in 1976 in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The virus is named after the Ebola River, which flows through the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Ebola is spread by coming into contact, directly or indirectly, with the bodily fluids of people or animals that have the disease. Symptoms include weakness, fever, aches, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, red eyes, sore throat, chest pain, difficulty breathing and swallowing and both external and internal bleeding.

Before the Ebola outbreak, Dr. Khan specialized in treating Lassa fever, which is similar to Ebola and is contracted by approximately 100,000 to 300,000 people a year in West Africa. When the Ebola outbreak began, Dr. Khan immediately turned all his attention to it, but not without stating “I am afraid for my life.” One silver lining is that the government may step in and take greater measures to address the outbreak now that the virus has struck a prominent figure.

– Taylor Lovett

Sources: NPR, CNN, CDC
Photo: Washington Post