A doctor who led the fight against ebola in Sierra Leone died Wednesday from the virus, several weeks after another infected specialist with a key role in the effort to stop the spread of the disease in the African nation also died.

The death on Wednesday of Dr. Modupeh Cole was announced by the Health Ministry, according to press reports in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

Trained in the United States, Cole was one of the physicians in charge of the Connaught public hospital located in Freetown and where ebola patients are being treated.

Cole's death is a heavy blow to efforts to contain the ebola epidemic in the country, which has a serious lack of professional health care personnel and infrastructure and has already been adversely affected by the death in July of Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who headed the program against the disease.

Since the ebola outbreak in March in Guinea Conakry and its spread later to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, more than 1,000 people have died from the disease, according to World Health Organization figures.

Despite the fact that African governments have mobilized all their resources with an eye toward containing the epidemic, the number of fatalities continues rising in West Africa, especially in Liberia, where another 29 people died between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9.

Ebola, which is transmitted by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected people or animals, causes serious hemorrhaging and can have a mortality rate of up to 90 percent.

This is the first time that an ebola epidemic has been identified and confirmed in West Africa, with all previous outbreaks having been restricted to Central Africa. EFE