Dr. Martin Salia, a doctor who had been treating patients with Ebola in Sierra Leone and was being treated for Ebola at a Nebraskan hospital upon returning home, has recently become the second victim to pass away from the disease in the U.S.
Salia was a citizen of Sierra Leone and had come to the U.S. to visit relatives; after arriving, he began to experience symptoms of the virus. Unfortunately, a hospital spokesman stated, Salia was in such critical condition when he arrived at the Nebraska Medical Center that it was impossible to save him.
Official reports say that Salia was already having kidney and respiratory failure by the time he arrived at the hospital, and hospital staff gave him every treatment possible: dialysis, blood plasma transfers from Ebola survivors, and anti-Ebola drug ZMapp.
Although Salia was the 10th patient to be treated for Ebola in U.S., the eight other patients were able to recover (or are expected to recover) because the disease was caught in its early stages in those cases. Salia, on the other hand, was already infected with Ebola when his wife (an American citizen living in Maryland) reportedly paid $200,000 to have the doctor flown back to the U.S. for treatment.
Dr. Salia’s passing is certainly a loss for communities both in the U.S. and in Sierra Leone, but it appears that Americans are starting to have a better handle on how to prepare for and treat the infectious disease. It wouldn’t be surprising if the majority of Americans weren’t even aware that Salia had been flown into the U.S. from Sierra Leone for treatment.
This isn’t to say that Americans are caring less about the disease; rather, as the LA Times points out, the “Ebola scare” is starting to fade. Instead of buying into dramatic PSA warnings that Ebola is going to cause the entire country to fall apart, people are realizing — largely because of those eight other patients — that Ebola can be treated as long as it’s identified early enough.
Additionally, people are realizing that Ebola isn’t the only infectious disease that warrants preparation. Something like the common influenza virus, which affects anywhere from 5% to 20% of Americans each year, is more treatable than Ebola but is still notorious for causing dozens of deaths each year.
Ebola isn’t the first infectious virus to cause hundreds of deaths globally, as well as mass hysteria domestically — and for that matter, it certainly won’t be the last. But this particular disease is giving medical centers an important wake-up call (i.e., that they aren’t nearly as prepared as they should be), and as long as Americans remain supportive and calm, it may be possible to treat and eradicate not just Ebola, but other infectious diseases as well.