Officials with the State of Nebraska and the University of Nebraska say treating a doctor who contracted Ebola in Africa at an Omaha hospital poses no health risk to the public.
“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. Joseph Acierno, director of the Nebraska Department of Health, said during a news conference Thursday. “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 early 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,” Smith said Thursday. “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, said staff at the hospital have been preparing for this type of situation for “a very long time.”
“Not only will this patient receive world-class care,” Gold said, ” 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 Africa, 3600 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. 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. The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s unit is the nation’s largest, with 10 beds for patients diagnosed with infectious diseases.