Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, the most prominent physician working with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, died Tuesday from the disease. He was 39.
The news was confirmed by the country's chief medical officer. "It is a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral hemorrhagic fevers," Dr. Brima Kargbo said. The Independent reports that Khan contracted the disease last week, and was in quarantine. Before falling ill, he had treated more than 100 patients at a Kenema hospital.
The World Health Organization says that this is the largest Ebola outbreak in history, killing more than 670 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria. Ebola is spread via bodily fluids like sweat, blood, urine, and saliva, and it's not clear how Khan became infected. Reuters reports that he was known for being "meticulous with protection," but he did admit to reporters prior to being diagnosed with Ebola that he was afraid for his life. "Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease," he said. "Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk."