BOONE, N.C. (AP) — A second American aid worker has tested positive for the Ebola virus at the same hospital in Liberia where an American doctor became infected while helping to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease, a relief group official said Sunday.
Ken Isaacs, a vice president of Samaritan’s Purse, told The Associated Press that Dr. Kent Brantly — the 33-year-old medical director for the group’s Ebola care center on the outskirts of the Liberian capital of Monrovia — was stable and in very serious condition.
“We are hopeful and prayerful,” Isaacs told AP by telephone from the group headquarters in Boone, North Carolina. He said the doctor quickly recognized the symptoms and sought speedy treatment.
Isaacs identified the second American, Nancy Writebol, as a worker with an allied aid group SIM, or Serving in Mission, which runs the hospital where Samaritan’s Purse has an Ebola care center on the grounds. He said she was in stable and serious condition.
“She is showing full symptoms of the disease,” Isaacs said. He added that Writebol had been working as a hygienist who decontaminated those entering and leaving the Ebola care area at the hospital.
He said both Americans have since been isolated and are under intensive treatment.
Isaacs, the Christian relief group’s vice president of program and government relations, said the fact that health care workers have been infected underscores the severity of the West Africa outbreak that has killed hundreds in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
“It’s been a shock to everyone on our team to have two of our players get pounded with the disease,” said Isaacs, adding health ministries in those poor nations are challenged to respond. “Our team is frankly getting tired.”
The highly contagious virus is one of the most deadly diseases in the world. The World Health Organization said the outbreak is the largest ever recorded, killing more than 670 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since it began earlier this year.
Health workers are at serious risk of contracting the disease, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids.
Photos of Brantly working in Liberia show him in white coveralls made of a synthetic material that he wore for hours a day while treating Ebola patients.
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.