Massachusetts Doctor With Ebola to Return to U.S.

Dr. Rick Sacra will be treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha

A Massachusetts doctor fighting to stay alive after contracting Ebola is on his way back to the United States.

His wife, Debbie Sacra, had been prepared to read a statement about her husband at UMass Medical School in Worcester on Thursday afternoon, but instead spoke about the good news.

"I just had a call from the doctor who put Rick on a plane to come to the United States," she said.

The 51-year-old Holden, Massachusetts, doctor, missionary and assistant professor at UMass Medical School had been delivering babies in Liberia since last month as part of a mission with the group SIM. Ebola virus has claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 West African men, women and children since the outbreak started earlier this year.

Although two other infected missionaries, SIM colleagues Nancy Wrightbol and Dr. Kent Brantly, were treated in Atlanta, Dr. Sacra is on his way to University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

"There will be a number of folks who ask, why are we bringing somebody here to the United States to the NMC, with Ebola, and my answer would be that this is part of my mission. Obviously, these health care providers were on a mission in Africa and our mission is to care for patients and we're going to do that and we're going to do that safely and as effectively as possible," Dr. Mark Rupp, the Medical Director at the Dept. of Infection Control, said.

To be safe and effective, they will have to keep all employees disease free at Nebraska Medical Center, which is one of four U.S. treatment facilities specifically prepared for this type of case.

"So we have a special unit with special air flow and a number of mechanical features but our most important feature really is our staff. We have a specifically trained staff of 30 to 35 people," Dr. Phil Smith, the Director of the Biocontainment Unit, said.

Dr. Sacra's wife said he and their family knew the risks inherent with going back to West Africa, but this is what he was called to do. Though his long term health prognosis is not known, she was relieved to hear from his doctor in Liberia.

"(He said) Rick is clearly sick, that he was in very good spirits, and he walked onto the plane. So we are really encouraged by that news and are looking forward to reuniting with him," Debbie Sacra said.

He should arrive Friday morning in Omaha.

The experimental Z-Mapp product that worked wonders with Wrightbol and Dr. Brantly is no longer available, according to doctors in Nebraska. However, they say there are some additional products that they are looking into, other than supportive care.

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