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Red Cross says it's harder to recruit for Ebola than Iraq

A health worker wearing protective equipment gives to drink to a young Ebola patient at Kenama treatment center, run by the Red Cross in Sierra Leone, November 15, 2014.

FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images

BRUSSELS -- Red Cross officials helping to lead the fight against Ebola in West Africa say the virus is spreading, and they're having trouble recruiting health care workers to combat it.

Antoine Petitbon of the French Red Cross said Monday that it's easier for him to recruit people to go to Iraq, despite the security hazards there. He said the French Red Cross is facing a problem it's never had before: Sixty percent of people who sign up to work in the Ebola zone back out later due to pressure from families and friends.

Because of their close contact with severely ill patients, health care workers are especially vulnerable to contracting Ebola. More than 300 doctors, nurses and other health care workers have died of the disease since the outbreak began. That toll grew on Monday with the death of Dr. Martin Salia, a surgeon from Sierra Leone, who was in extremely critical condition when he arrived Saturday for treatment at Nebraska Medical Center.

Meanwhile, Birte Hald of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told reporters in Brussels that the virus "is flaring up in new villages, in new locations."

"It is absolutely premature to start being optimistic," she said.

So far, the outbreak in West Africa has sickened more than 14,4oo people and killed at least 5,177 according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.