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Former Ebola Patient Dr. Rick Sacra Hospitalized

Sacra, a doctor who was treated for Ebola and recovered, was taken to a Boston-area emergency room with what could be pneumonia.
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An American doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was successfully treated for the deadly disease was taken to a Boston-area hospital Saturday for what health authorities suspect is pneumonia.

Dr. Rick Sacra, who contracted Ebola while working with the relief organization SIM, is being kept in isolation at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., as a precaution, the hospital said.

“We think it is highly unlikely that he has Ebola. We suspect he has an upper respiratory tract infection, with symptoms of cough and conjunctivitis,” Dr. Robert Finberg, chair of medicine at UMass Memorial Medical Center, said in a statement. Tests are expected back from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, he said.

Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the biocontainment unit at the Nebraska Medical Center where Sacra was treated, said three blood tests showed Sacra was virus-free. “Because of his recent battle with the Ebola virus, his immune system is compromised,” Smith said. “The public shouldn't be concerned that his disease has returned."

Sacra, 51, was given two transfusions of blood serum from another Ebola survivor, Dr. Kent Brantley, as well as an experimental drug during his treatment for Ebola. He was declared virus-free and discharged from the hospital on Sept. 25. The Ebola virus has killed more than 3,400 people in the African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Tensions were heightened after a Liberian was diagnosed with the disease inside the U.S. this week.

SIM USA President Bruce Johnson said the recovery from Ebola is a long one, and that the development of secondary health effects does not mean the disease has returned. “We are not alarmed at this development and look forward to Rick’s return to full health in the days ahead,” he said.


— Phil Helsel