A third American infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia is Dr. Rick Sacra, a 51-year-old family physician from Massachusetts, his employer SIM USA said Wednesday.
Sacra is an old hand in Liberia, and a good friend of both the previous patients — Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly.
They both heard the news Tuesday. “My heart sank,” Writebol said in an interview with NBC News. “I just I didn’t have any other words but ‘oh, no’.” She immediately volunteered to head back over to help take care of him, but she isn’t quite well enough yet to do that.
“They are part of the family,” Writebol said, holding tightly to her husband David’s hand as she spoke. “To hear the news is very sad, (knowing) the whole cycle of the progression of the disease and how that story might end.”
Sacra was not treating Ebola patients, but pregnant women, SIM said. The charity said they had not discussed possible treatment for Sacra at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, as Writebol and Brantly got.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, who oversaw the first two missionaries' treatment at Emory, told NBC that he also does not know whether the third patient will come there.
"I know there have been discussions that this person will be coming back to the United States," Ribner, head of the hospital's infectious disease unit, said. "I don't believe the actual site where they're coming back has been decided yet."
NBC's WHDH in Boston spoke by phone to Dr. Sacra's brother, Doug, who confirmed the diagnosis and said "my brother is the perfect example of Christian Self Sacrifice."
First published September 3 2014, 8:51 AM
Maggie Fox is senior health writer for NBCNews.com and TODAY.com, writing top news on health policy, medical treatments and disease.
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She's a former managing editor for healthcare and technology at National Journal and global health and science editor for Reuters based in Washington, D.C. and London.
She's reported for news agencies, radio, newspapers, magazines and television from across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe covering news ranging from war to politics and, of course, health and science. Her reporting has taken Maggie to Lebanon, Syria and Libya; to China, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan; to Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia and to Ireland and Northern Ireland and across the rest of Europe.
Maggie has won awards from the Society of Business Editors and Writers, the National Immunization Program, the Overseas Press Club and other organizations. She's done fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Maryland.