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Surgeon who contracted Ebola in West Africa dies

Martin Salia, MD, a surgeon who contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone, died Monday while being treated at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, according to media reports. “Every member of the team has been personally affected by Dr. Salia’s passing,” said Shelly Schwedhelm, MSN, RN, nursing director of Nebraska Medical Center’s biocontainment unit, in a news release. “While losing any patient is always extremely difficult, although our effort here was brief, everyone gave every ounce of effort they had. The collective feeling of loss has been overwhelming.”

Salia, a citizen of Sierra Leone who lived in Maryland, had been working as a general surgeon at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown, according to media reports. It was not clear where he had come in contact with Ebola patients. Salia had initially tested negative for the virus; but a subsequent test came back positive Nov. 10. “The doctors who tended to him in Freetown appeared to be unaware that an early Ebola test — taken within the first three days of the illness — is often inconclusive,” a Washington Post article stated.

According to the CDC, it may take up to three days after symptoms start for the virus to reach detectable levels.

Salia was suffering from advanced symptoms of Ebola when he arrived at the hospital Saturday, which included kidney and respiratory failure, according to the release. “Dr. Salia was extremely critical when he arrived here, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to save him,” Phil Smith, MD, medical director of the biocontainment unit at Nebraska Medical Center and professor of infectious diseases at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said in the release. “We used every possible treatment available to give Dr. Salia every possible opportunity for survival,” Smith said. “As we have learned, early treatment with these patients is essential. In Dr. Salia’s case, his disease was already extremely advanced by the time he came here for treatment.”

Salia was placed on dialysis, a ventilator and multiple medications to support his organ systems to help his body fight the disease. ZMapp therapy was initiated on Saturday and he also received a dose of convalescent plasma.

“We’re very grateful for the efforts of the team led by Dr. Smith,” Salia’s widow, Isatu Salia said in the release. “In the short time we spent here, it was apparent how caring and compassionate everyone was,” she said, “We are so appreciative of the opportunity for my husband to be treated here and believe he was in the best place possible.”

Salia is the second patient to die of Ebola in the U.S. Both contracted the disease while in West Africa. The first, Thomas Eric Duncan, died in early October in Texas after contracting the disease in Liberia.

For a specialty CE activity on Ebola, visit Nurse.com/Ebola.

By | 2014-11-17T00:00:00-05:00 November 17th, 2014|Categories: National|0 Comments

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