The Sierra Leonean doctor that died from Ebola, is the 10th to succumb to the disease, in what the country’s chief medical officer on Sunday called a shocking trend.
Dr. Aiah Solomon Konoyeima died on Saturday, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr Brima Kargbo. His death came a day after two other doctors died from Ebola.
Konoyeima worked at a children’s hospital in the capital and was treated at the Hastings Ebola Treatment Centre in Freetown.
Because Ebola is transmitted through the bodily fluids of the sick and dead, it is sometimes called the “caretakers’ disease.” Hundreds of health workers have been infected in this outbreak, which overall has sickened more than 17 500 people, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Of those, about 6 200 have died.
The disease has fallen off the front pages in recent weeks. Influenza is still a major killer in the United States. More people will die this winter from the flu than Ebola.
Antibiotic resistance is a major threat too. There are an estimated 75,309 cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, infection in the United States, according to CDC tracking data.
Since the Ebola outbreak began in February, around 300,000 people have died from malaria, while tuberculosis has likely claimed over 600,000 lives.
Ebola is not even close to being the biggest problem in Africa right now. Even Lassa fever, which shares many of the terrifying symptoms of Ebola (including bleeding from the eyelids), kills many more than Ebola – and frequently finds its way to the US.
In all, 11 Sierra Leonean doctors have been infected; only one has survived. That’s much higher than an overall fatality rate of 60% for hospitalised patients in the three most affected countries, according to the World Health Organisation.
Trying to explain why so many doctors have died, Kargbo said doctors may initially try to manage their symptoms at home and seek treatment later than other patients. He described as “shocking the continuing death rate among Sierra Leonean front-line medical doctors”.
But the branch of the country’s medical association that represents junior doctors has been pushing for better care for infected medical workers.
The group met on Saturday with President Ernest Bai Koroma and asked him to make sure the necessary life-saving equipment was available to treat doctors, according to Dr Jeredine George, the group’s president.
Koroma, according Kargbo, promised that a new unit to treat doctors would open soon. British army medics are already staffing a clinic dedicated to treating health workers.
In recent days, including Sunday, the World Food Program and the British military dropped food by helicopter to residents of Sherbro Island and surrounding islands who typically live by selling their fishing catch, but are struggling with so many markets shut because of Ebola.
The most real effect for millions of people reading about Ebola will be fear and stigma attached to Africa as well as blacks.
During the Sars outbreak of 2003, Asian-Americans became the targets of just that, with public health hotlines inundated with calls from Americans worried about “buying Asian merchandise”, “living near Asians”, “going to school with Asians”, and more.