An epidemiologist with WHO's Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network was working in Kailahun when he became infected. It is unclear how the medical professional contracted the virus. WHO announced on Tuesday that a team had been dispatched to Kailahun to investigate the circumstances of the infection.
"Once investigation has been completed, appropriate actions have been taken, WHO will move back to Kailahun," the health organization wrote via Twitter. The relocated staff are currently on "standby" in the capital city of Freetown until the investigation is complete.
WHO acknowledged that pulling back WHO health workers from the Ebola center in Kailahun "will interrupt work in the field short term, but it ensures we protect health workers, help community longer term."
WHO's representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Daniel Kertesz, said the decision to temporarily pull back "was the responsible thing to do." The medical staff at Kailahun was not only traumatized by the death of their colleague, but "They are exhausted from many weeks of heroic work, helping patients infected with Ebola. When you add a stressor like this," Kertesz observed, "the risk of accidents increases."
The health organization has cautioned that exhaustion can lead to errors on the job, a risk heightened when treating infectious disease.
As of August 20, WHO recorded 910 cases of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, a significant portion of the 2,615 cases recorded in West Africa since the outbreak began earlier this year.