Ebola now taking toll on doctors, health care workers

USA TODAY - An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 670 people in Africa is now taking a toll on the doctors and health care workers battling the deadly disease.

An American doctor who has been working in Liberia since October 2013 for the Boone, North Carolina-based aid organization Samaritan's Purse is now receiving intensive medical treatment after he was infected with Ebola, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

A government official in Liberia said Sunday that one of that country's highest-profile doctors has died in what the World Health Organization says is the largest recorded outbreak of the disease.

Samaritan's Purse spokeswoman, Melissa Strickland, said Kent Brantly, 33, was in stable condition, talking with his doctors and working on his computer while being treated. She cautioned that he is "not out of the woods yet." Strickland said patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment immediately after being infected, as Brantly did.

Brantly, who is married with two children and is medical director for the Samaritan's Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, is being treated at a Samaritan's Purse isolation center at ELWA Hospital, according to Strickland.

Strickland tells NBC Charlotte a missionary with SIM, a missionary group working in conjunction with Samaritan's Purse, is the second U.S. citizen working in Liberia to test positive for the Ebola virus. That missionary is Charlottean Nancy Writebol. According to SIM's website, Nancy and her husband David both serve the group in Liberia; David serves as the technical services manager at SIM's Radio ELWA complex, while Nancy serves as a personnel coordinator. The couple has two children.

An Ebola outbreak in the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the largest recorded epidemic of the disease, has caused more than 670 deaths and more than 1,000 infections, according to the WHO. Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness with a fatality rate of up to 90% and is one of the world's most virulent diseases, according to the WHO. It is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people.

The first Liberian doctor to die of the disease was identified as Samuel Brisbane. He was working as a consultant with the internal medicine unit at the country's largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia.

Brisbane, who once was a medical adviser to former Liberian President Charles Taylor, was taken to a treatment center on the outskirts of the capital after falling ill with Ebola, and died there, said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister.

He said another doctor who had been working in Liberia's central Bong County also was being treated for Ebola at the same center where Brisbane died.

The situation "is getting more and more scary," Nyenswah said.

A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia, where an Ebola outbreak has killed 129 people, died earlier this month. The current outbreak has claimed the lives of 319 in Guinea and 224 in Sierra Leone.

Last week, the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders announced that the chief doctor leading the fight against the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Sheik Umar Khan, had contracted the disease. Three nurses who worked in the same Ebola treatment Center as Khan, 39, are believed to have died from the disease.

On Friday, the WHO announced that it was opening a Sub-Regional Outbreak Coordination Centre in Conakry, Guinea, in response to the outbreak. The center will "consolidate and harmonize the technical support being provided to West African countries" hit by the disease and help mobilize resources for the response, the WHO said.

Contributing: Associated Press

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)


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