WHO doctor contracts Ebola while deployed in Sierra Leone

A World Health Organization doctor deployed to Sierra Leone has tested positive for Ebola

A World Health Organization doctor working at an Ebola care facility in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the virus, the second international health worker deployed by the agency to become infected while responding to the worst outbreak of the disease on record.

The doctor had been helping to care for patients at a government-run center in the eastern city of Kenema, said Nyka Alexander, a WHO spokeswoman in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown. She did not disclose the person’s nationality, citing patient confidentiality.

The doctor is in stable condition in Freetown and will be evacuated shortly, the WHO said in a statement.

The Ebola outbreak was first detected in Guinea in March and spread across the border to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Cases have also been reported in Nigeria and Senegal, and more than 2,000 people have died of the virus.

The WHO helped local authorities set up the Ebola care center at the Kenema government hospital and provided mentorship and direction to national staff, the United Nations health agency said.

It is transferring three doctors to the facility to help oversee the care of about 50 patients and 30 convalescents who are waiting for test results to confirm it is safe for them to be discharged, Alexander said.

But the WHO is recommending that new admissions be limited while an investigation is conducted into how the doctor become infected.

Healthcare workers have been heavily hit by the virus, which is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of patients. Staff at local hospitals have had to work without adequate protective equipment or training, but that was not the case at the specialized center where the doctor was deployed, Alexander said.

A Senegalese epidemiologist who contracted Ebola while deployed by the WHO in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, last month is receiving care at a hospital in Hamburg, Germany.

The WHO temporarily withdrew its remaining staff members from the eastern town while it investigated what happened. Alexander declined to provide the results of that inquiry but said WHO personnel returned to Kailahun on Sunday after steps were taken to improve their safety.

The measures included providing more work space for staffers and relocating them to a guest house where the WHO will have control over the cleaning staff and over their comings and goings, she said.

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