Doctor with Ebola heads to Nebraska for treatment

LAUREN RAAB
Last updated 11:09, September 5 2014

An American doctor and missionary who was infected with the Ebola virus while helping care for patients in Liberia will be flown to Nebraska for treatment

Dr Rick Sacra, 51, an obstetrician who lives in the Boston area, began receiving care in the central African country, but the Nebraska Medical Centre in Omaha provides more treatment options, Bruce Johnson, president of the Christian missionary group SIM said.

Sacra is expected to arrive Friday morning and is to be treated at the medical center's Biocontainment Patient Care Unit.

Dr Jeffrey Gold, chancellor of the medical centre, said the biocontainment unit is one of four in the United States, and it is the largest. He emphasised that he did not think there was danger of Ebola spreading there.

"We have been preparing for this type of event for a very long time," he said. Biocontainment units were "prepared specifically to deal with this type of disease." Other patients and faculty and staff members, he said, will be "completely protected and safe."

Sacra has had a number of complications from the disease but was able to get on the plane under his own power, according to Dr. Phil Smith, director of the biocontainment unit.

Sacra is the third American missionary to be infected with Ebola while in Liberia to take care of patients. The other two, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, were treated at Emory University in Atlanta and made full recoveries after receiving a new drug, ZMapp.

A total of seven Ebola patients received ZMapp, but it is not known whether the drug aided their recovery. Five of them were later released from hospitals, including the two Americans and a British nurse discharged Wednesday.

Two of the patients did not survive.

The company that developed ZMapp says it has no more doses left.

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Dr Angela Hewlett of the biocontainment unit said her team was looking into other products to use in Sacra's treatment.

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the worst on record, and the death toll has surpassed 1,900, according to the World Health Organization.

"This Ebola epidemic is the largest and most severe and most complex we have ever seen," Dr Margaret Chan, the WHO's director general, said Wednesday.

The virus, which is spread through contact with the bodily fluids of infected patients, was first detected in Guinea in March. It then spread to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal, where at least one patient has been identified.

 - MCT