Ebola: Another Patient en Route to US

Nebraska Medical Center's biocontainment unit is preparing for a new patient. Martin Salia, 44, a surgeon who is completing a residency in Freetown, Sierra Leone, but resides in New Carrollton, MD, is apparently the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to be infected with the Ebola virus. He was doing the residency at Kissy United Methodist Hospital, a general hospital, not an Ebola center. Meanwhile, new Ebola vaccines are headed for trials.

Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit is preparing for a new Ebola patient, due to arrive Nov. 15. He is Martin Salia, MD, 44, a surgeon who is completing a residency in Freetown, Sierra Leone, but whose permanent address is in New Carrollton, MD. He is apparently the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to be infected with the virus.

He was working as a surgical resident at Kissy United Methodist Hospital, a general hospital, not an Ebola center, his wife Isatu told reporters. The couple has two sons.

Salia, a citizen of Sierra Leone, is affiliated with an international conservative Christian church called United Brethren, based in Indiana. The church sponsors medical missionaries. But Salia was employed in Sierra Leone under his own auspices, according to the church. The church had planned to send him as a missionary to Burkina Faso, but the hospital he was due to work at was blown up in that country's civil conflict.

In an appeal to its members on the church website the group said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had agreed to help bring Salia to the US and that it was looking for a sponsoring organization so the CDC could do that. But in trying to get help for her husband, Isatu Salia, who is a US citizen, contacted the US State Department and that apparently worked.

The State Department on Nov. 13 issued a statement confirming that it was in touch with the patient’s wife. The same day, the CDC said an Ebola patient would be arriving in Nebraska, but the hospital has not officially confirmed that the patient is Salia, who has permanent US resident status, but is not a citizen.

Meanwhile, in Omaha, NE, the hospital has already treated 2 Ebola patients successfully. They are Rick Sacra, MD, and Ashoka Mukpo, the NBC cameraman who accompanied Nancy Snyderman, MD, to West Africa. The hospital has a federally designated biocontainment unit and is one of only four such US facilities.

The unit was built in 2005 to address concerns of a SARS outbreak. Care costs about $30,000 a day, a hospital spokeswoman said.

According to the hospital, the patient (apparently Salia) is being transported by Phoenix Air Ambulance Service in Cartersville, GA, which has five Learjets and two Gulfstream G-III planes configured to care for infected patients.

“Each aircraft is dispatched as a critical care medical unit” with doctors on board in direct contact with Phoenix Air’s medical director, the company says on the site. It has a US Department of Defense contract to offer medical transport.

In other Ebola news, Doctors Without Borders announced Nov. 13 that trials of experimental drugs would start in Guinea in December.

The Canadian government is also testing its own vaccine, VSV-EBOV on 40 volunteers in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The volunteers are being assured they cannot get the virus from the vaccine and will be compensated about $1,125 (Canadian) for participating in the 11-week trial. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Public Health Agency of Canada are funding the $300,000 trial.