Freetown - Another Sierra Leonean doctor has become infected with Ebola, an official said Wednesday, as the country lags behind in its efforts to contain the deadly disease.
Ebola has sickened more than 17,000 people, the majority of those in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Rates of infections are now stabilizing or declining in Guinea and Liberia, but the disease is picking up speed in Sierra Leone.
A week ago, the information minister said the outbreak in Sierra Leone might be on the verge of slowing down. Since then, the country has reported more than 700 new infections, more than Guinea and Liberia combined in that period.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brima Kargbo told reporters Wednesday that he stands by the statement that Sierra Leone's outbreak is peaking, but he acknowledged much remains to be done. Too many unsafe burials are still happening, he said, causing about 70 percent of new infections. Ebola is transferred through the bodily fluids of the sick and the dead; the bodies of people killed by the disease are especially contagious and must be carefully buried.
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The country also needs more beds in isolation centers to treat the sick. The country has 406 such beds, President Ernest Bai Koroma said Wednesday, less than one-third of the number planned. The nation is also short on health care workers. About 100 more African health care workers are expected soon, said Kargbo.
Still, Sierra Leonean doctors and nurses are doing the bulk of the treatment in the country, said Kargbo, and another health care worker tested positive for Ebola Tuesday. Dr. Dauda Koroma is being treated at a military hospital in the capital.
All three of the most affected countries had a shortage of health care workers before the outbreak, and have called for foreign help. The African Union has promised to send 1,000 by the end of the year, but they have been slow to deploy.
So far, 87 have arrived in the region. The AU held a send-off ceremony for 250 more from Nigeria on Wednesday.