A senior physician whom other doctors saw as their mentor in the battle against the Ebola virus died on Thursday from the disease, according to Reuters.
Sixty-seven-year-old Victor Willoughby was the 11th doctor in Sierra Leone to die from Ebola. He was diagnosed with the disease on Saturday and died just hours before a dose of a new drug could be administered to him.
Health care workers have been hit particularly hard by virus — more than 350 of those working in the medical field against the disease worldwide have died. Overall Ebola has infected more than 19,031 people, the vast majority in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Of those, more than 7,373 have died, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.
The death of Dr. Willoughby was a huge loss for Sierra Leone, Dr. Brima Kargbo, the country’s chief medical officer, told the Associated Press.
“Dr. Victor Willoughby was a mentor to us physicians and a big loss to the medical profession,” said Kargbo. “He has always been available to help junior colleagues.”
Health officials had tried to get an experimental drug, ZMab to treat Willoughby. The drug, developed in Canada, is related to another experimental drug, ZMapp, which was used to help treat American doctor Kent Brantly.
The arrival of the drug on a Brussels Airlines flight raised hopes that the doctor might be saved, but Willoughby died just hours before it could be administered, Kargbo said.
The loss of yet another doctor is a particularly hard blow for Sierra Leone, where doctors were already in short supply. According to the World Health Organization, the United States has 245 doctors per 100,000 people; Sierra Leone, in contrast, has only two. Since the outbreak spread to Sierra Leone in late May, an estimated 10 percent of Sierra Leone’s entire physician workforce has been killed by the virus.
Earlier this week officials in Sierra Leone began house-to-house searches in the capital Freetown to find hidden cases of Ebola. President Ernest Bai Koroma said Sunday trading would be banned and travel between districts restricted in a bid to stop the spread of the disease. The country has also banned public celebrations over Christmas and the New Year.
“This is the festive season where Sierra Leoneans often celebrate with families in a flamboyant and joyous manner,” said President Koroma, “but all must be reminded that our country is at war with a vicious enemy.”