Officials with the State of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska Medical Center say treating a missionary doctor who contracted Ebola while serving in Africa at an Omaha hospital poses no health risk to the public. Dr. Joseph Acierno is director of the Nebraska Department of Health.
“Considering the way the facility has been designed, considering the expertise we have with that facility, considering our partners, we believe any risk is minimal and we think there shouldn’t be fear, but we understand there will be fear,” Dr. Acierno says. “We stand ready to answer those questions.”
Dr. Rick Sacra, the patient, went on a mission trip to Liberia in August to work in a hospital there. He got a fever last Friday and was diagnosed with Ebola earlier this week.
Dr. Phil Smith is director of the biocontainment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center where Sacra is being treated.
“It’s likely that we’re going to continue to see people like this,” Dr. Smith says. “They want to test the capacity of different places and have more than one facility on call.”
Jeffery Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, says staff at the hospital have been preparing for this type of situation for “a very long time.” UNMC has the largest biocontainment facility in the country.
“Not only will this patient receive world-class care,” Gold says, ” but all of our patients, students, faculty and staff will be completely protected during this entire episode of care.”
During this Ebola outbreak in west African, 3,600 people have fallen ill and more than half of them have died. Sacra is a family practice doctor who was volunteering in the obstetrics unit of a hospital in Liberia. He was not working with Ebola patients and it’s unclear how he contracted the virus.
Two other American medical missionaries were flown back to the U.S. and treated at an Atlanta hospital’s isolation unit. They have both been released. The unit at Emory University in Atlanta, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland and the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Montana operate containment units that are similar to the one in Omaha.