Sierra Leone's top Ebola doctor has lost his battle with the deadly virus, which is sweeping through West Africa in a record outbreak, Reuters reports.
Virologist Sheik Umar Khan, who had treated more than 100 Ebola patients, died Tuesday after fighting the often fatal virus, which is believed to have already taken the lives of more than 600 people across Guinea, Liberia and Khan's home country of Sierra Leone. His death, less than a week after his condition came to light, is but one of the latest among medical professionals and aides helping to fight the infection.
"It is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone, as he was the only specialist the country had in viral hemorrhagic fevers," Sierra Leone's chief medical officer, Brima Kargbo, said, according to Reuters.
Sierra Leone's health minister, Miatta Kargbo, had lauded the 39-year-old doctor after his initial grim diagnosis, calling him a "national hero" and voicing her intent to "do anything and everything … to ensure he survives."
There's no known cure for the disease, which, in the current outbreak, has approximately a 60 percent fatality rate. Symptoms include high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding.
As a doctor keenly aware of the risks of being in such close quarters with the deadly disease, Khan, in a June interview with Reuters, had voiced fear for his life, acknowledging that health workers were among the most at risk.
"Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease," he said at that time. "Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk."
Read more at Reuters.