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World

US official warns Ebola outbreak will worsen

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — A third doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading US health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse.

The disease has already killed more than 1,400 people in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and Doctors Without Borders warned that the influx of patients in Liberia, in particular, is overwhelming their treatment centers there.

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‘‘I wish I didn’t have to say this, but it is going to get worse before it gets better,’’ Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said of the outbreak at the end of a visit to Liberia, where he described the situation as dire.

Liberia has recorded the highest number of cases and deaths of any of the four countries. Doctors Without Borders said in a prepared statement that a new 120-bed treatment center in the country’s capital filled up almost immediately.

The growing number of patients means that the medical charity is not able to provide those patients with intravenous treatments, a primary way doctors keep alive people who are losing a great amount of fluid.

The group did not mention Frieden’s visit or recent visits by UN officials, but it said discussions now about international coordination are coming too late and there are countries that could make a dramatic difference if they provided more expertise and resources. It did not name the countries.

‘‘This is not only an Ebola outbreak — it is a humanitarian emergency, and it needs a full-scale humanitarian response,’’ Lindis Hurum, the Doctors Without Borders emergency coordinator in Monrovia, the Liberian capital, said in the statement.

Frieden travels next to Sierra Leone, where the loss of a third senior doctor has raised concerns about the country’s ability to fight the outbreak.

Dr. Sahr Rogers had been working at a hospital in the eastern town of Kenema when he contracted Ebola, Sierra Leonean presidential adviser Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said Wednesday.

Rogers’s death marks yet another setback for Sierra Leone, a country still recovering from years of civil war, where there are only two doctors per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. By comparison, there are 245 doctors per 100,000 people in the United States.

Health workers have been especially vulnerable because of their proximity to patients, who can spread the virus through bodily fluids. WHO has said that at least 240 health workers have been infected in this outbreak, more than in any other. One of those is an epidemiologist working with the WHO in Sierra Leone, who has been evacuated for treatment in Germany.

‘‘The international surge of health workers is extremely important and if something happens, if health workers get infected and it scares off other international health workers from coming, we will be in dire straits,’’ said Christy Feig, director of WHO communications.

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