One of Liberia‘s most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, a government official said on Sunday, and a second US healthcare worker has been infected in what the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling the largest outbreak ever recorded of the disease.
Dr Samuel Brisbane is the first Liberian doctor to die in an outbreak, which the WHO says has killed 129 people in the west African nation. A Ugandan doctor working in the country died this month.
Brisbane, who once served as a medical adviser to the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, was working as a consultant with the internal medicine unit at the country’s largest hospital, the John F Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia.
After falling ill, he was taken to a treatment centre on the outskirts of the capital, where he died, said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister.Under the supervision of health workers, family members escorted the doctor’s body to a burial location west of the city, Nyenswah said.
He said another doctor who had been working in Liberia’s central Bong County was being treated for Ebola at the centre where Brisbane died.
The situation “is getting more and more scary,” Nyenswah said.
Last week Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor fell ill with the disease and in Liberia, Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity, announced at the weekend that an American doctor was infected. Dr Kent Brantly had been isolated at the group’s Ebola treatment centre at the ELWA hospital in the Liberian capital, Monrovia.
A second American, Nancy Writebol, later tested positive for the virus at the same medical compound, said Ken Isaacs, of Samaritan’s Purse. Isaacs said Writebol, who works with the allied aid group SIM, was in a stable but serious condition at a hospital near Monrovia.
Brantly received intensive treatment on Sunday and was talking to his medical team and working on his computer, said Melissa Strickland, a spokeswoman for Samaritan’s Purse.
“We are hopeful, but he is certainly not out of the woods yet,” Strickland said.
In Nigeria, officials announced on Friday that a Liberian official had died of Ebola after flying from Monrovia to Lagos raising fears that other passengers could take the disease beyond Africa. The WHO says the outbreak has also killed 319 people in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone.
Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, used her Independence Day address to discuss a new taskforce to combat Ebola. Information minister, Lewis Brown, said: “It will go from community to community, from village to village, from town to town in order to increase awareness.”
There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat but then escalates to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding.
Experts believe the west African outbreak could have begun in January in south-east Guinea, though the first cases were not confirmed until March.
Since then, officials have tried to contain the disease by isolating victims and educating populations on how to avoid transmission, though porous borders, satellite outbreaks and widespread distrust of health workers have made the outbreak difficult to bring under control.