Top Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone contracts virus

Sheik Umar Khan, head doctor fighting the deadly tropical virus Ebola in Sierra Leone, in a photo taken June 25, 2014. Khan, a virologist credited with treating more than 100 Ebola victims, became infected by the Ebola virus, according to the statement released on July 22, 2014, by the president's office. REUTERS/Umaru Fofana

A physician at the helm of Sierra Leone's efforts to contain and control the Ebola epidemic has just been diagnosed with the virus, according to reports from Reuters and the BBC.

Sheik Umar Khan, a virologist, has treated more than 100 patients with the deadly disease and was admitted earlier this week to a high containment treatment facility, according to a statement released on Tuesday by the government. A source inside the ward told Reuters that the doctor is receiving treatment, though no details were given on his current state of health.

Health Minister Miatta Kargbo called Khan a "national hero" and said she would "do anything and everything in my power to ensure he survives," Reuters reports.

Khan, 39 years old, is one of many health care workers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone who has contracted the disease as a result of firsthand involvement. Though health workers in the region are required to be thoroughly covered in protective gear, many who are tending to the ill have contracted the virus. A BBC reporter at a clinic in Freetown in Sierra Leone said dozens of nurses at a government hospital went on strike on Monday after three health care works died from suspected Ebola infections.

In June, Khan told Reuters that he had installed a mirror in his office at the clinic in Kenema so he could check to be sure there weren't any holes in the back of his protective gear before he entered the treatment facility to care for patients. "I am afraid for my life, I must say, because I cherish my life," he told the reporter from Reuters. "Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease. Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk."

As of July 12, there have been 964 incidences of Ebola and 603 deaths due virus in this area of West Africa since the outbreak first emerged in February, according to the World Health Organization. The virus has maintained a stronghold on the region because of the insufficient borders that separate the three countries.

Experts say this current outbreak is the largest in the history. In April, Michel Van Herp, an epidemiologist for the aid group, Doctors Without Borders, predicted the Ebola outbreak would develop into an epidemic on an unprecedented scale.

There currently is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, which has less than a 10 percent survival rate.

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A picture taken on June 28, 2014, shows Red Cross staff preparing a body for burial at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. The World Health Organization has warned that Ebola could spread beyond hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to neighboring nations.

CELLOU BINANI/AFP/Getty Images

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