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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Infected American doc knew he faced a ‘tsunami’ of Ebola

In an August 30, 2014 blog post, Rick Sacra, MD, worried about the “many people in Liberia who are at risk because of the Ebola tsunami that swept through an already fragile healthcare system.”

“The healthcare system in Liberia has had to go through a complete reboot after every single hospital in the city of Monrovia closed down to be decontaminated with bleach water as a result of Ebola cases landing in emergency rooms, outpatient clinics and medical wards,” he continued. “We hope to gradually increase our services over the next couple of weeks to include children and adults, but we must first make some changes to our building to allow us to triage everyone before they enter the hospital grounds to check for any signs of Ebola. A large shipment of personal protective gear arrived yesterday from our partner, Samaritan’s Purse. This has been one of the key issues in reopening—ensuring that we have adequate protective equipment.”

Shortly after that post, the 51-year-old family ob/gyn physician began exhibiting signs and symptoms of Ebola, which he probably contracted working long hours over the previous three weeks treating pregnant women and literally saving lives.

“When the patients started arriving, they had often been to several other hospitals and traveled for hours seeking care,” Sacra wrote in his blog. “More than 35 cesarean sections were performed to save women and their babies in the first 20 days—sometimes two or three a day. “

Sacra was flown back to the states and admitted Sept. 5 to a specially designed 10-bed biocontainment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Two of his colleagues with Samaritan’s Purse had undergone successful treatment for Ebola at a similar biocontainment unit at Emory Hospital in Atlanta. By late August, each had recovered and was discharged. As this issue went to press, Sacra was making some progress but doctors said it was too early to give a definitive prognosis. Meanwhile, a fourth health care worker infected with Ebola in Africa was admitted to the Emory biocontainment unit on Sept 9th, though few details were being released.