American Doctor With Ebola 'Slightly Improved'

Dr. Richard Sacra was infected while treating pregnant women in Liberia.

September 06, 2014, 9:30 PM

— -- The latest American doctor to be infected with Ebola in West Africa is "slightly improved," his wife said after visiting him in a Nebraska hospital today.

SIM missionary Dr. Rick Sacra, who contracted EbolaVirus Disease in Liberia, arrived in Nebraska Friday and was brought to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

His wife, Debbie, and her oldest son Maxwell, 22, visited Sacra -- isolated in the hospital's biocontainment unit -- for about 25 minutes over a video link.

"Rick is very sick and weak, but slightly improved from when he arrived yesterday," Debbie Sacra said. "He asked for something to eat and had a little chicken soup."

She said he did not remember much from the trip, and that the priority now is for him is to rest.

She said she was "relieved to see his face and hear his voice again."

She said she and her husband were most interested in keeping the focus on the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

"We don't want this story to be about Rick," she said. "The story is the crisis in West Africa. That is what is most important. The world is coming to this fight late."

Sacra, 51, was treating pregnant women in the ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, when he became infected with the deadly virus, according to SIM, an international, interdenominational Christian organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Sacra, an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts Medical School, was not treating Ebola patients in the hospital's separate Ebola isolation facility, the group said, adding that it was unclear how he contracted the virus. All infected U.S. health workers were working at the ELWA hospital when they contracted the virus.

He was isolated in the ELWA Ebola ward after becoming infected.

Sacra specializes in family medicine and practices in Worcester, Massachusetts, but he traveled to Liberia in August.

"I knew he needed to go," Debbie Sacra said, adding that he knew there was a risk he would contract Ebola but he wanted to help people with malaria and pregnant women amid the outbreak.

"He is not someone who can stand back when there is a need that he can take care of," she said.

Sacra is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and spent nearly two decades working in Liberia, according to the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Sacra's colleagues at the medical school called him a "gifted physician" who took on extra work to treat pregnant women in the rural country.

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