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  • Nati Harnik, File / AP Photo

    FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2006, file photo, a mock patient is cared for during a drill at the Nebraska biocontainment unit in the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who was infected with Ebola while wokring in Liberia is being flown to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha where he is expected to arrive sometime Friday. Sacra will begin treatment in the hospital's special isolation unit, believed to be the largest in the U.S.

  • Nati Harnik / AP Photo

    FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2006, file photo, a mock patient is wheeled in an isolation pod during a drill at the Nebraska biocontainment unit in the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Neb. Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, who was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia is being flown to the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha where he is expected to arrive sometime Friday. Sacra will begin treatment in the hospital's special isolation unit, believed to be the largest in the U.S.

  • Doug Sacra / AP Photo

    This undated photo from the family shows Dr. Richard Sacra in Liberia. On Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2014, the president of the SIM missionary group said Dr. Sacra was the third U.S. aid worker sickened with Ebola; he decided to return to Liberia after the two others fell ill with the deadly virus.

  • Doug Sacra / AP Photo

    Dr. Richard Sacra is seen in this undated family handout photo working in Liberia. Sacra is the third American doctor reported to have contracted the Ebola virus while treating the African breakout.

  • Family Health Center of Worcester, Inc. / AP Photo

    Dr. Richard Sacra is seen in this undated photo provided by his medical practice, Family Health Center of Worcester, Inc., in Worcester. Mass. Sacra it the third American doctor reported to have contracted the Ebola virus while treating the African breakout.

  • The Omaha World-Herald, Matt Miller / AP Photo

    From left, Dr. Mark Rupp, an infectious disease specialist; Dr. Phil Smith, medical director, and Dr. Angela Hewlett, associate medical director, hold a news conference at the Truhlsen Eye Institute in Omaha, Neb. on Sept. 4, 2014. Doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center said they're ready to treat a missionary who was infected with Ebola while serving in Liberia. Dr. Rick Sacra is expected to arrive in Omaha on Friday.

  • Stephan Savoia / AP Photo

    Debbie Sacra, wife of Dr. Rick Sacra, an American doctor who contracted the Ebola virus in Africa, walks into a news conference followed by Dr. Michael F. Collins and Dr. Sacra's brother David at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Thursday Sept. 4, 2014 in Worcester, Mass.

  • The Omaha World-Herald, Matt Miller / AP Photo

    Dr. Phil Smith, medical director, gives a news conference in Omaha, Neb. on Sept. 4, 2014. Doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center said they're ready to treat a missionary who was infected with Ebola while serving in Liberia. Dr. Rick Sacra is expected to arrive in Omaha on Friday.

  • Stephan Savoia / AP Photo

    Debbie Sacra, wife of Dr. Rick Sacra, an American doctor who contracted the Ebola virus in Africa, smiles as she announces she spoke to the doctor who put her husband on a plane in Africa bound for the United States during a news conference at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Thursday Sept. 4, 2014 in Worcester, Mass.

  • The Omaha World-Herald, Matt Miller / AP Photo

    University of Nebraska Medical Center Chancellor Jeffrey Gold speaks at a news conference at the Truhlsen Eye Institute in Omaha, Neb. on Sept. 4, 2014. Doctors at the Nebraska Medical Center said they're ready to treat a missionary who was infected with Ebola while serving in Liberia. Dr. Rick Sacra is expected to arrive in Omaha on Friday.

US doctor infected with Ebola heading to Nebraska

Published: Thursday, Sep. 4, 2014 - 2:00 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Sep. 4, 2014 - 7:57 pm

A doctor who was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia is being flown to a Nebraska hospital for treatment, doctors there said Thursday.

Officials at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha said Dr. Rick Sacra, 51, is expected to arrive sometime Friday. Sacra will begin treatment in the hospital's 10-bed special isolation unit, the largest of four such units in the U.S.

Sacra served with North Carolina-based charity SIM. Its president, Bruce Johnson, said Sacra was receiving excellent care at a center in Liberia, but that the Nebraska facility provides advanced monitoring equipment and has a wider availability of treatment options.

Sacra, who's from the Boston area, opted to head to Liberia after hearing that two other missionaries were sick. Sacra wasn't involved in the treatment of Ebola patients but delivered babies, so it's unclear how he got infected with the virus that's killed about 1,900 people.

He's the third American aid worker infected by the Ebola. The first two — Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — have recovered since being flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.

Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Omaha unit, would not say what time or where Sacra would arrive, citing public safety and patient confidentiality concerns. Smith and several other doctors with the unit repeatedly said Sacra's transfer to Omaha posed no threat to the public, noting Ebola is transmitted through close contact with an infected person.

He said Sacra was in stable condition in Liberia and was able to board the plane to the U.S. under his own power, but added, "He has a long plane ride ahead of him."

Doctors in Omaha will focus on providing him basic care, Smith said, including keeping him hydrated and keeping his vital signs stable. Smith said a team of 35 doctors, nurses and other medical staffers will attend to Sacra.

The team is discussing experimental treatments, including using blood serum from a patient who has recovered from Ebola, Smith said.

"We've been trying to collect as much information on possible treatments as we can," Smith said.

There are no licensed drugs or vaccines for the disease, but about a half dozen are in development. None has been tested in humans, but an early trial of one vaccine began this week in the United States.

Much attention has focused on the unproven drug ZMapp, which was given to seven patients, two of whom died. But the limited supply is now exhausted and its developer says it will take months to make even a modest amount.

Sacra's wife, Debbie, said in a news conference at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester that her husband was in good spirits as he boarded the plane Thursday. She said the couple had known there was a risk of him getting infected with Ebola when he left for Liberia in August.

"I knew he needed to be with the Liberian people," she said. "He was so concerned about the children that were going to die from malaria without hospitalization and the women who had no place to go to deliver their babies by cesarean section. He's not someone who can stand back if there's a need he can take care of."

Read more articles by MARGERY A. BECK



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