UPDATE: Dr. Martin Salia has died, according to the Nebraska Medical Center. "Dr. Salia was extremely critical when he arrived here, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren't able to save him," Phil Smith, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at the hospital said in a statement.
Dr. Martin Salia, the most recent Ebola patient to seek treatment in the United States, arrived in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday, Nov. 15. Salia, a 44-year-old Sierra Leone citizen who lives in Maryland, was recently promoted to chief medical officer of Kissy United Methodist Hospital in one of the poorest areas of Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Although he was deemed well enough to travel to the U.S. to seek treatment for Ebola, his condition is critical by all accounts. The Associated Press reported that Dr. Phil Smith, who is helping treat Salia at the Nebraska Medical Center's biocontainment unit, said Salia is "extremely ill" and it is an "hour-by-hour situation."
Reports vary on when Salia first began exhibiting symptoms of the disease. He tested positive for the virus on Nov. 10.
Videos from the United Methodist Church that feature Salia offer some insight into the surgeon's career. According to one video, Salia took a pay cut to stay at Kissy. In another, Salia describes how his strong sense of duty toward the people of Freetown and his faith informed his decision to become a surgeon.
"I strongly believe that God brought me here to fix whatever comes to my doorway," Salia says.
One of the videos shows Salia and his colleagues praying before surgery.
“He could have gone into private service and made a lucrative living,” Bruce Steffes, executive director of the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons, through which Salia received his training, told The Washington Post. “But the fact that he stayed committed to missionary hospitals tells you everything you need to know about who he is and his faith and what’s important to him.”
Kissy is not an Ebola treatment facility, and it is not currently clear how Salia contracted the virus. The AP reported that according to United Methodist News, which cited health ministry sources, the surgeon worked in at least three other facilities.
The Washington Post reported that surgeons who do not directly treat Ebola can be at risk in affected regions, since they can come into contact with patients who may have Ebola symptoms that are masked by larger issues that require surgery.
Kissy United Methodist Hospital closed the day after Salia's diagnosis, and all hospital staff are now undergoing a 21-day quarantine, according to a United Methodist News report.
Salia is the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to test positive for Ebola and the third patient to seek treatment at Nebraska Medicine, one of four U.S. hospitals equipped to handle treatment of the disease and the hospital with the largest biocontainment unit in the country. Two former Ebola patients, Dr. Rick Sacra and freelance journalist Ashoka Mukpo, were both successfully treated at the facility.
At least 5,177 people have died from Ebola during the current outbreak -- the worst recorded in history -- according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization. Of those, 324 of the dead have been local health care workers.