Ebola Patient Stable At Nebraska Medical Center

By: WOWT 6 News, The Associated Press Email
By: WOWT 6 News, The Associated Press Email
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Community Ebola Information

Dr. Adi Pour, with the Douglas County Health Department, says a public health hotline will be set up to answer local questions. The number is 402-444-3400. It will be in service as of 9 a.m. Friday, September 5th. It will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

In addition, there is Ebola information posted on the Health Department Web site. Click here to view that.

Ebola patient Dr. Rick Sacra is in stable condition at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He arrived there by ambulance Friday morning following a flight to Offutt Air Force Base.

The 51-year-old Boston-based doctor is in the Biocontainment Unit. He became infected while treating patients in Liberia. Dr. Sacra didn't treat Ebola patients but delivered babies, so it's unclear how he got infected.

Dr. Mark Rupp, chief of the infectious diseases division at the Nebraska Medical Center, said at a news conference that the isolation unit where Dr. Sacra is being treated was built to treat highly infectious and deadly diseases.

"Our unit is especially designed exactly for this type of patient and for this purpose," Dr. Rupp said. "It's a very safe environment for the patient as well as for our health care providers and the rest of our patients."

Dr. Sacra was wheeled on a gurney off the plane, into an ambulance and into the hospital after he arrived around 6 a.m. He is the third American aid worker sickened. The other two were treated at Emory University in Atlanta.


Nebraska Medical Center

The Medical Center wanted to make sure other patients and staff knew what type of patient was coming so communication was proactive to limit anxiety but on Friday doctors were again emphasizing the minimal risk to anyone here.

Dr. Rupp said, “We know Ebola is a dangerous virus but it's not particularly contagious. It is not spread via an airborne route. But it's spread by direct contact with blood and body fluids."

In Africa, where more than 1,500 people have died, 50 percent of the people who get it end up dying in a place with primitive medical care.

Omaha doctors say patients treated in the U.S. have a good if not much better chance of survival because the care is so much better.

Dr. Ali Kahn said, "It's important to remember that Ebola does not present a public health threat to the United States."

Dr. Kahn recently retired from the Centers for Disease Control. He said it's important to shut down the outbreak in Africa as soon as possible because many experts believe it's inevitable that we'll have someone show up at an American ER with Ebola.

Dr. Rupp said, “It's very likely other hospital will see these types of patients eventually and we plan on learning from our patient and passing along our best care experiences to them.”

"It's a scary virus," Dr. Angela Hewlett said Thursday during a news conference to announce that Dr. Sacra was coming to Omaha for treatment. She emphasized it is only spread by direct contact. "What we're concerned about is body secretions."

As for why he is being treated here, Dr. Phil Smith said based on the trajectory of the epidemic, "It seemed likely that we're going to continue to see people like this" and officials wanted to test facilities to prepare for the potential of additional cases.


Biocontainment Unit

Over the summer, federal health officials said they were currently seeing the worst Ebola outbreak in modern history. The Nebraska Medical Center has been on notice to help stand guard.

The U.S. State Department targeted the Med Center’s Biocontainment Unit as a resource to help should it become necessary.

As that was announced in August, Dr. Hewlett, an infectious disease specialist with the Biocontainment Unit, said, "We would provide supportive care to the patient, which again would be things like IV fluids, possibly blood products, antibiotics that may fight secondary infections that can develop with this illness but essentially what it is, is it is just provided support to that patient, whether that is mechanical or ventilation or having difficulty breathing, again hydration, that is really the essence of treating this illness."

The Biocontainment Unit houses five rooms that fit two patients each. It is staffed with physicians, nurses and others who are on call 24 hours a day.

Along with the Med Center’s 10-bed Biocontainment Unit, there are only three other similar facilities in the United States. The list includes the unit at Emory University in Atlanta that is operated by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana.

“We want everyone to know that every precaution is being taken in transporting this patient here and caring for them once they arrive,” said Dr. Hewlett. “This is one of the safest places in the country for this patient to be treated, both for the public and for the medical professionals providing care.”

The Omaha Fire Department provided transportation to the hospital. "Our personnel are trained to safely care for high-risk patients every day," Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert said in a statement released Thursday. "We are confident there will be no risk to OFD personnel or the public."

The Biocontainment Unit at the Med Center has been activated once since it opened. That was for a potential case of Ebola that turned out to be malaria. The unit is frequently used for training and as additional space for patients during times when the hospital is near capacity.

Dr. Rick Sacra's personal mission to help others wasn't new. He has been back and forth to West Africa, specifically Liberia, for the past 25-years.


Dr. Rick Sacra

Because of the Ebola outbreak there, hospitals have closed all over the country.

The Boston native was there to help women deliver healthy babies.

His friend and boss, Bruce Johnson, said, “Honestly, it took the wind out of me."

It was hard for Johnson to hear the news that Rick Sacra had tested positive for Ebola.

Johnson said, “Even this morning as I'm seeing Rick brought in on the ambulance, I'm sitting there and crying - tears of gratitude that he was able to come back."

But friends say Rick Sacra is at peace with whatever happens.

Johnson shared email Sacra sent this week that said, “I know that with or without evacuation I could well die from this disease. And frankly my main concern is for Debbie and my boys.”

Debbie, his wife, is expected to be in Omaha on Saturday.

Dr. Sacra works for SIM, an international Christian mission organization with thousands of workers in 50 countries. Two of its founders died of malaria 120-years ago shortly after it was started yet the mission continues.


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