American Ebola Patient Gets Appetite Back

Doctors at Nebraska hospital where Dr. Rick Sacra is being treated said he has eaten ice cream

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HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, Sept. 13, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- An American doctor infected with Ebola who is being treated at a Nebraska hospital is getting his appetite back, doctors there said.

Dr. Rick Sacra has been a patient at the Nebraska Medical Center's isolation unit since being flown to the Omaha-based facility from West Africa on Sept. 5.

On Friday, the hospital said that Sacra satisfied a craving for ice cream with a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, the Associated Press reported.

Doctors there are saying that Sacra is improving every day, the news service said.

His continuing recovery follows the donation of blood from a fellow medical missionary who has recovered from his own infection with the often deadly virus that is causing havoc in four West Africa nations.

Sacra was given blood transfusions from Dr. Kent Brantly on Sept. 5, shortly after arriving in Omaha. The 51-year-old Sacra has also been given an experimental drug and other treatments, hospital officials said.

Sacra and Brantly, 33, are good friends and both work for missionary groups. They were infected while caring for patients in West Africa, where the Ebola epidemic has killed more than 2,400 people and infected almost 4,800 others. World Health Organization officials have said the outbreak could eventually infect more than 20,000 people. A modeling study published in Eurosurveillance projects said that, under a worst-case scenario, there could be another 77,000 to 277,000 cases by the end of the year, Canada's CBC reported.

The theory behind the blood transfusion therapy Sacra received is that Brantly's blood contains vital antibodies to the Ebola virus, and they may help Sacra's immune system fight off the infection.

Brantly himself was given a blood donation from a teenage survivor of Ebola while still in Liberia, one of the West Africa nations hit hard by the epidemic, USA Today reported.

Four American medical aid workers have been infected with Ebola while working in West Africa. Brantly and colleague Nancy Writebol, 59, were flown from Liberia to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta last month for aggressive treatment that included the experimental drug ZMapp. Both recovered and are no longer contagious. It's still not clear what role, if any, ZMapp played in their recovery.

The fourth infected American, so far unidentified, continues to undergo treatment at Emory.

Sacra is being treated at the Nebraska hospital because health officials want to make sure several U.S. medical centers are capable of combating Ebola.

U.S. and World Health Organization officials have warned that the Ebola virus is spreading faster than health workers in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone can work to contain it.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Ebola is primarily being spread in West Africa in two ways: The first is among people caring for people with the disease, whether at home or in health-care settings and hospitals; the second is unsafe burial practices.

More information

For more on Ebola, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Sept. 10, 2014, news release, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Sept. 11, 2014, USA Today; Associated Press; CBC

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