Dr. Rick Sacra, who was the third U.S. aid worker to contract Ebola, has recovered from the virus and has been released from Nebraska Medical Center.
— Nebraska Med Center (@NebraskaMed) September 25, 2014
Sacra, 51, entered the Nebraska Medical Center biocontainment unit on Sept. 5 after he was infected with Ebola while working in obstetrics in Liberia.
Sacra told assembled reporters at a press conference that he was caring for pregnant women at the time he was infected with the virus. "We were doing a lot of C-sections. Unfortunately, what we discovered is this epidemic is so widespread now, the numbers are so high, that even people who.. don’t have classic symptoms that you’re looking for [or] that the WHO [World Health Organization] was training us on, that sometimes those people have Ebola."
Sacra said that he and the other doctors were all wearing standard protective gear, but "something didn't go right somewhere."
"Labor, delivery and C-sections can be chaotic, and we didn’t have adequate staffing, I'd say," he said, adding that he still doesn't know what specific incident led to his infection.
Even though Sacra is free of the virus, he still has healing ahead of him. Next, he said that he will see his own primary care doctor and will also likely see a physical therapist. "I have no idea if it'll take me one month or three months before I feel back to myself," he said, but the key will be to "be patient with this process."
"The virus can really weaken a person, [and] they can lose a lot of weight," Barbara Knust, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told NPR. "Sometimes they need extra support to get healthy enough so they aren't at risk of a secondary infection."
Doctors at Nebraska Medical Center also said during the press conference that the hospital staff members had been drilling for years to ready themselves for a patient like Sacra, and that throughout Sacra's stay, they had been in touch with other medical centers (including Emory University Hospital, which treated Ebola patients Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol) as well as the WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Infection control procedures often involve extra precautions. At Nebraska Medical Center, that included putting infected materials into an autoclave, sterilizing them, then testing them to make sure the sterilization was effective, before being handled as biowaste by the hospital waste system.
As part of his treatment, Sacra received a blood transfusion from Brantly, who had already recovered from the Ebola virus. Brantly's blood had antibodies for the virus strain affecting Sacra. However, it will take some time before it's known if Sacra's blood -- now that he has recovered from the virus -- can be used to help other patients. Doctors at the medical center said at the conference that the CDC will need to determine the strength of the virus antibodies in Sacra's blood.