Mission group identifies 3rd American with Ebola

Nancy Writebol, the missionary who recovered from Ebola
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Nancy Writebol, the missionary who recovered from Ebola contracted in Liberia waves as she walks into a news conference at the SIM USA headquarters on Sept. 3, 2014 in Charlotte, N.C.(Credit: Getty Images / Chris Keane)

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The third American sickened with Ebola is a Boston-area doctor who decided to return to Liberia after the two others fell ill with the deadly virus, the president of his missionary group said Wednesday.

Dr. Rick Sacra returned to Liberia about a month ago and was delivering babies in the obstetrics unit of the missionary group's hospital in Liberia, SIM President Bruce Johnson said at a news conference. Sacra was not caring for Ebola patients, Johnson said.

Sacra returned to Liberia after another doctor — with the group Samarian's Purse, a partner of SIM — and a SIM missionary became ill with the virus. Both survived after treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.


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Johnson said the group does not know whether Sacra will return to the U.S. for treatment.

Dr. Bruce Ribner, who oversaw the first two missionaries' treatment at Emory, told NBC's "Today" show that he also does not know whether the third patient will come to the Atlanta hospital.

"I know there have been discussions that this person will be coming back to the United States," Ribner, head of the hospital's infectious disease unit, said. "I don't believe the actual site where they're coming back has been decided yet."

North Carolina-based SIM said Tuesday that the third doctor is in isolation in Liberia.

Dr. Kent Brantly, the first Ebola patient to arrive at Emory, said he knew the latest American to fall ill quite well and has prayed for him and his family, whom he said were "holding up "pretty well."

Also at Wednesday's news conference, Nancy Writebol — the SIM health worker who has since recovered from Ebola — said she believes an experimental drug, her medical care and her faith helped save her.

"Those were some very, very dark days," Writebol, 59, said of her illness.

She said didn't think she had Ebola but she was tested for it anyway. She said she didn't know whether she would live or die: "I had no clue what was going to happen."

The Writebols left their home last year for their missionary work. At the clinic in Liberia, Writebol's duties included disinfecting staff entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area.

She was released from the Atlanta hospital on Aug. 19 and has been spending time with her husband at an undisclosed location. Her husband was quarantined for a week at the SIM campus before being released.

The virus that has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids, not through casual contact.

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