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US doctor contracts Ebola as virus spreads

Date
Dr Kent Brantly, right, at work in his personal protective equipment.

Dr Kent Brantly, right, at work in his personal protective equipment. Photo: Reuters

Washington: Two Americans involved in the treatment of Ebola victims in Liberia have become infected with the West African epidemic.

As of July 20, the number of Ebola cases recorded in the months-long epidemic was 1093, including more than 660 deaths in the worst outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever on record, according to the WHO.

Dr Kent Brantly, a former GP in Fort Worth, Texas, became the third senior doctor in less than a week to fall ill with the virus he was trying to treat in others. Dr Samuel Brisbane, from Liberia, died on Saturday at a clinic in the country's capital, Monrovia.

Dr Kent Brantly, left, at work with an Ebola patient in Monrovia, Liberia.

Dr Kent Brantly, left, at work with an Ebola patient in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: Reuters

Sierra Leone's leading Ebola specialist, Dr Sheikh Umar Khan, also tested positive last week, and is being treated at a Medecins Sans Frontieres clinic. He is expected to survive.

Dr Brantly was in a stable condition and has been isolated at the group's Ebola treatment centre at  a hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia, charity Samaritan's Purse said. He is the medical director of the charity's Ebola case management centre in Liberia.

Nancy Writebol, a missionary with the SIM Christian charity that runs the hospital, had contracted the disease and was also stable as of Sunday morning, according to the Christian charity. Ms Writebol had been working as a hygienist responsible for detoxifying protective suits worn by those entering and exiting an Ebola isolation centre.

"They're both receiving intensive early treatment, but certainly it's a dangerous situation and a frightening situation," spokeswoman Melissa Strickland said. 

The Ebola outbreak shows no signs of abating, with authorities across West Africa now on higher alert after a Liberian man carrying the illness flew unchecked from Monrovia to Lagos, Africa's most populous city, and died there. He was vomiting during the flight, raising concerns other passengers could have caught the illness.

Any surge in infections in Lagos, Nigeria, could be impossible to contain. Travellers leaving airports in the main affected countries - Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia - were undergoing extra checks, but doctors have warned that symptoms can take time to show.

Relations of virus victims in Sierra Leone, where more than 450 have died from the virus, are increasingly mistrustful of Western doctors' attempts to save their family members, and are resorting to traditional healers. But that means that they are forcibly carrying their sick relations from isolation wards back to their villages, significantly raising chances of further contagion.

In recent days crowds gathered outside clinics and hospitals to protest against what they see as a conspiracy, in some cases clashing with police as they threatened to burn down the buildings and remove the patients.

A Sierra Leone patient who sparked a nationwide hunt when her family forcefully removed her from a treatment centre and took her to a traditional healer. She died in an ambulance on the way to another hospital, a health official said on the weekend.

More people have died now in Sierra Leone than in Guinea, where this outbreak of the virus was first identified in February.

Ebola is believed to be carried by animals hunted for meat, notably bats. It spreads among humans via bodily fluids including sweat, meaning you can get sick from touching an infected person.

The virus can fell victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

With no vaccine, patients believed to have caught the virus must be isolated to prevent further contagion.

AFP, Telegraph, London, Reuters

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