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Wave of Ebola cases begins to swamp Liberia

In the month of July, 2014, Liberia reported 1,230 Ebola cases to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the same month, 616 deaths due to Ebola were reported. The impoverished West African nation has experienced 72 percent of all its Ebola illnesses in just one month. The outbreak's toll in Liberia, based on a WHO report Sept. 4, is 1,698 suspected, probable and confirmed Ebola illnesses and 871 deaths.

A Liberian Ministry of Health worker checks people for Ebola symptoms at a checkpoint near the international airport.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

In a press release on Sept. 2, the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare updated the Ebola data. The nation has experienced 1,847 suspected, probable and confirmed illnesses since March 22. It is now reporting a total of 1,062 Ebola-related fatalities. Health cares workers have paid a price for working with their patients as the country reports that 153 have contracted Ebola and 76 have died. Over 3,100 contacts are being monitored by the public health authorities.

Reuters, in a Sept. 2 piece, noted that nurses at Monrovia's John F. Kennedy Medical Center have gone on strike to obtain unpaid bonuses, and for improved working conditions. A similar one-day strike at a hospital in Sierra Leone occurred on Sept. 1.

On Sept. 2, the BBC reported the escape of an Ebola patient from quarantine and his recapture in a local market. The episode was filmed. The patient was eventually tackled by several health care workers in protective suits and transported back to the hospital.

A third American health care worker has been diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia. Dr. Rick Sacra is an employee of SIM, an international Christian mission organization. He was working in a maternity ward at a hospital and it is current unknown how he was exposed to the viral illness.

Sacra is being moved by a medical transport aircraft to The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment. They operate one of four Biocontainment Patient Care Units in the United States. Previously, missionaries Dr. Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol were treated at a similar facility at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for Ebola that they contracted in Liberia. They have since recovered and been released.

SIM described his service with their agency since 1995 and detailed his recent work:

SIM sent Rick Sacra into Liberia early in August to provide assistance during the relocation of missionaries who needed a break in the Ebola fight. Alongside our many Liberian colleagues, Dr. Sacra provided continuity to the ministry at ELWA and helped to build SIM’s response to the Ebola crisis.

Dr. Sacra worked at ELWA Hospital and was not involved in the care of Ebola patients. The Ebola isolation unit is a separate facility from the hospital. Dr. Sacra has saved the lives of several women and infants in the past three weeks who would have otherwise died from complications of pregnancy and labor.

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