The latest U.S.-based doctor who became infected with the Ebola virus while treating patients in Sierra Leone has died, a medical director confirmed Monday morning.
“It is with an extremely heavy heart that we share this news,” said Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at 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.”
Dr. Martin Salia, a legal resident of the U.S. who lives with his wife in children in Maryland, arrived in Omaha, Nebraska Saturday afternoon, at the request of the U.S. State Department. He was placed on dialysis, a ventilator and multiple medications when he arrived at the hospital Saturday. Salia was the third patient treated for Ebola at the Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit and the 10th patient with Ebola to be treated on American soil.
“We used every possible treatment available to give Dr. Salia every possible opportunity for survival,” Dr. Smith said. “As we have learned, early treatment with these patients is essential. In Dr. Salia’s case, his disease was already extremely advanced by the time he came here for treatment.”
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On Tuesday, Craig Spencer, at the time the last U.S. Ebola patient, was declared virus-free, and he was released from a New York City hospital after the city’s health department said he “poses no public health risk.” Spencer, a doctor, contracted the virus while treating patients in Guinea. Only one Ebola patient has died while being treated for the virus in the U.S. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man, was treated in Dallas in September. He was intially discharged from Texas Health Presbyterian hospital, which the hospital later admitted was a mistake. He returned three days later and was diagnosed with Ebola. He died on Oct. 8.
The Ebola virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids, and a person must be symptomatic in order for transmission to occur. Ebola cannot be spread through the air.
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In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Salia’s 20-year-old son, Maada, said his father knew the risks of working in West Africa with Ebola patients but remained undeterred. ”Even though he knows the sickness is already out, he decided to still go and help his people because he wanted to show that he loves his people. He’s really, really a hero to me,” Maada Salia said.
As of November, there have been more than 14,000 total reported cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and over 5,000 deaths, according to the CDC.