Dr. Ali Khan, Dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health, has been tapped by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the second time in six months to provide epidemiologic assistance in Sierra Leone. Dr. Khan left Sunday for a four-week deployment to work with the WHO Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. He will address Ebola hot spots and assist in the country’s national research agenda. WHO is reviewing a proposal to deploy or employ additional faculty to help with the local response and data analytics, he said.
Dr. Khan was first deployed at the end of January for a six-week assignment in Sierra Leone. His most recent deployment follows on the heels of an announcement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month that Nebraska/Nebraska Medicine will establish and co-lead the new National Ebola Training and Education Center.
Ebola may not be front page news these days, but it continues to ravage three countries in West Africa. For more than one year, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone have been experiencing the largest and most complex outbreaks of Ebola in history. Guinea and Sierra Leone are struggling to eliminate the virus. Together, the two countries reported 27 cases in the week of June 29 to July 5. In an effort to control the epidemic, Sierra Leone officials said this week that they would extend a curfew in affected areas until the virus is completely wiped out.
The decision follows the recording of two new cases in the last week of June in the capital city, contradicting the assumption that the city was free of the virus. Civil unrest and violence against aid workers have been reported in West Africa as a result of the outbreak. The public health infrastructure in Sierra Leone is being severely strained as the outbreak grows. A total of 13,155 cases were reported and 3,940 people have died from Ebola in Sierra Leone. Since the outbreak last year, more than 11,200 people have died from Ebola in West Africa.
“This deployment will showcase Nebraska’s global leadership to our local and national community and will help identify new partnerships and opportunities for students. I look forward to providing our students with new vignettes in my emerging infections course this fall,” he said.
You can follow Dr. Khan on Twitter: @UNMC_DrKhan.