By BosNewsLife Africa Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MONROVIA, LIBERIA (BosNewsLife)– A Christian physician and a missionary remained “in serious condition” Wednesday, July 30 after they were infected with the potentially deadly Ebola virus while caring for patients, a major Christian relief group said.
Samaritan’s Purse said its co-worker Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol, a missionary employed by partner group Serving In Mission (SIM), showed “a slight improvement in the past 24 hours” amid appeals for prayers.
However the two Americans “remain in serious condition in Liberia where they are being treated for Ebola,” the North Carolina-based group said.
News about their condition came after officials confirmed that a doctor from Sierra Leone who was leading the battle against Ebola in his nation died from the disease. Dr. Sheik Umar Khan passed away at a Doctors Without Borders facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, said Dr. Brima Kargbo, chief medical officer of the country’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation.
Dr. Samuel Brisbane was the first Liberian doctor to die in the outbreak. A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia died earlier in July.
The cases underscored the seriousness of what Samaritan’s Purse called “the horrific outbreak that is spreading throughout Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea” infecting hundreds of people “at an unprecedented rate”. The deadly disease, which causes massive internal bleeding and has a mortality rate of 60 to 90 percent in most situations, has claimed more than 670 lives.
“Just since early this year, the mortality rate has already claimed nearly a third of those fatalities as it has infiltrated three capital cities with populations in the millions,” Samaritan’s Purse said.
Over 32 years (1976-2008), the Ebola virus infected 2,232 people in remote village areas and killed 1,503, according to Samaritan’s Purse estimates.
Dr. Brantly, medical director for the Samaritan’s Purse care center for Liberia’s capital of Monrovia, and Writebol, part of the joint SIM/Samaritan’s Purse team, continued to undergo intensive treatment Wednesday, July 29, at an isolation center at ELWA Hospital.
“We are doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly and Nancy,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said.
“We ask everyone to please pray urgently for them and their families.”
Amid the turmoil, Amber Brantly, the wife of Dr. Brantly, and her immediate family said that as “people with a deep faith in Jesus” they “sincerely thank the thousands of people worldwide who have lifted up Kent and this dreadful situation in prayer.”
The family added that they “continue to lean on that faith and take great consolation in our God in these times.”
Family members said that “Amber and their two children are staying in an undisclosed location to protect their privacy” and that they “continue to believe that God will deliver Kent from this deadly virus.”
While the 33-year-old Kent, “remains very physically weak…his spirit has been determined throughout this ordeal,” the family added.
They asked supporters for “continued prayers for Kent, his colleague, Nancy Writebol, and the health care workers in Liberia struggling to meet the overwhelming demands of those who are sick with the Ebola virus as well as patients who have come to that hospital with other needs.”
Despite the dangers, medical staff are remaining on site to treat Ebola patients, Samaritan’s Purse said.
Yet, the group added that it was “curtailing operations in Liberia because of instability and ongoing security issues in the area” and that “non-essential personnel are being evacuated.”
Samaritan’s Purse said it is with Liberia’s Ministry of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United Nations agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO), and other groups “to provide life-saving medical care for patients at ELWA Hospital near Monrovia.”
The Ebola virus is transmitted mainly by direct contact with contaminated blood, organs, and bodily fluids, according to experts.
There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding. The WHO says the disease is not contagious until a person begins to show symptoms.