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. He 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 weren’t able to get him through this,” the University of Nebraska’s Division Chief Dr. Daniel Johnson said at a press conference Monday afternoon. “We really, really gave it everything we could.”
Hospital officials reported that “every advanced technique” was used to try and save Salia’s life, but they were unsuccessful. The hospital tried several Ebola treatments in the 36 hours where they were treating the doctor, using an unapproved but anecdotally successful drug Zmapp, and a plasma donation from an unknown Ebola survivor.
The family of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola case diagnosed on American soil who was initially misdiagnosed and sent home, alleges he wasn’t well cared for and given the most advanced treatment. They settled out of court against the hospital.
When Salia arrived late Saturday afternoon, his kidney was not working, he wasn’t breathing well, and he was unresponsive; shortly after, he went into respiratory failure and his blood pressure dropped. Early Monday morning, his doctor’s sad, he went in cardiac arrest.
Hospital officials emphasized that early diagnosis and treatment are key and Salia was in one of the most advanced stages, making treatment very difficult. He was on the 13th day of his disease when he arrived in the U.S.
“Our local heroes who took care of a global hero,” Rosanna Morris, the hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer, said. The Nebraska Medical Center’s Biocontainment Unit that cared for Salia also cared for—and cured—Askoka Mukpa, the NBC News freelancer who contracted Ebola in West Africa.
Salia, a surgeon working in Sierra Leonne, had a wife and two children in Maryland. They asked for privacy in a statement, saying they “pray for continued mobilization of resource in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia to combat the spread of the Ebola virus.”
Salia’s death highlights the growing inequality between those who are diagnosed early and treated in the U.S., where the majority survive, and those who are treated in Africa, where 70% die. Already more than 5000 have been recorded by the World Health Organization, but they note that their numbers understate the death rate of the virus.
Salia is a permanent U.S. resident; he was evacuated from Sierra Leone at the request of his wife, a U.S. citizen who agreed to reimburse the U.S. for any expense.
“I took this job not because I wanted to but because I firmly believe that it was a calling and God wanted me to do it,” he said in an April video about his work. “I knew it wasn’t going to be rosy.”