The third U.S. medical missionary to become infected with the Ebola virus was showing signs of improvement Saturday at a Nebraska hospital but was still very ill, his wife said.
Dr. Rick Sacra, a 51-year-old Boston physician, arrived Friday at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha for treatment after being flown there from Liberia, one of five West African countries affected by an outbreak of the virus.
"Rick is very sick and weak, but slightly improved from when he arrived yesterday," Debbie Sacra said Saturday. "He asked for something to eat and had a little chicken soup," she said.
Sacra said she and the couple's 22-year-old son are in Nebraska, but they visited with Rick, isolated in the hospital's biocontainment unit, for about 25 minutes over a video link.
She said he remembered little of his journey from Liberia and that she was "relieved to see his face and hear his voice again."
Dr. Sacra contracted Ebola while working at a hospital in Liberia on behalf of the North Carolina-based Christian group SIM USA. Sacra had worked in the obstetrics ward at the ELWA Hospital of SIM in Monrovia.
According to the World Health Organization, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 2,000 people and infected more than 4,000 since the outbreak began in Guinea in March.
The virus kills about half of those who contract it.
Debbie Sacra said both she and her husband wanted to keep 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."
Dr. Sacra was being cared for in the Omaha hospital's Biocontainment Patient Care Unit, a special isolation unit at the hospital that was designed to treat patients with highly infectious diseases.
The facility is similar to the one at Emory University in Atlanta where two other SIM USA missionaries, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, were treated and recovered.
Medical officials in Nebraska said Sacra's transfer Friday went smoothly.
"Our patient is sick but stable," Dr. Mark Rupp, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital, told a news conference.
In the Nebraska facility, Sacra will have the advantage supportive treatments, such as IV fluids, that may help him fight off the infection.