WASHINGTON, November 17, 2014 – Dr. Martin Salia, a 44-year-old native of Sierra Leone, died at 4:00 this morning at the same Omaha Nebraska hospital that has successfully treated other Ebola victims.
Until recently, Dr. Salia worked at Kissy United Methodist Hospital in Freetown.
Mr. Salia was the tenth Ebola victim to be treated in the U.S. and with Ashoka Mukpo and Dr. Rick Sacra, the third to be treated at the Nebraska Medical Center. This weekend, Dr. Craig Spencer was released from a New York hospital after receiving treatment for Ebola.
Salia is only the second person to die of Ebola in the U.S. Thomas Duncan died in Dallas, Texas on October 8 after initially being sent home from the ER of the hospital, despite having Ebola symptoms.
Since Duncan’s death, the U.S. has gone from fear to media-generated hysteria to a better understanding of the disease. However, the death of Dr. Salia reminds us that we must stay vigilant to the threat of not only Ebola but other diseases that are traveling to the U.S. from other countries.
Dr. Salia was a general surgeon at the Kissy United Methodist hospital, which is not an Ebola treatment unit. However he worked in at least three other facilities, United Methodist News said, citing health ministry sources.
By the time Salia was transported to the hospital he was in extremely critical condition. Salia first showed symptoms of Ebola on November 6, but he tested negative for the virus and he was treated for malaria. Dr. Salia’s tested positive on November 10, but he did not arrive at Nebraska Medical Center until the following Saturday.
By then the disease had already done extensive damage and Dr. Salia had advanced symptoms of the disease, including kidney and respiratory failure and despite being placed on dialysis and ventilator and being given blood serum from survivors and a dose of the rare ZMapp, he died.
“Despite out best efforts, we weren’t able to save him,” said Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the biocontainment unit.
Wife Isatu Salia said that when she last spoke to her husband on Friday he told her “I love you” in a steady voice. She called her husband “my everything.”
Salia arrived at he hospital on Saturday however they were unable to save him.
“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.”
With early and aggressive treatments that include from the simple replenishing of salts and fluids to the complexities of experimental drugs and survivor blood transplants, Ebola can be cured.
In Africa, Ebola has a 70 percent mortality rate because patients in Africa often do not request early treatment due to fears that they will be shunned by family and community, or due to a lack of available treatment. By the time they receive medical treatment, it is often already too little and too late to reverse the damage the virus has caused to the body.
The World Health Organization reports Ebola has killed more than 5,000 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, a number they caution may be an underestimate. The epidemic has spread to Mali, with three deaths, four reported cases, and officials checking on hundreds of people at possible risk.
“We are reminded today that even though this was the best possible place for an Ebola patient to be … even the best technologies that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they have reached a critical threshold,” Dr. Jeffrey Gold, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska’s medical center, said during a press conference this morning.
Dr. Salia, a legal U.S. resident who lived in Maryland when not working in Sierra Leone, is survived by his wife, Isatu and two children, ages 12 and 20.