Man who died from Ebola endured treatment delays

Another Doctor With Ebola Arrives in U.S. For Care

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- A surgeon who contracted Ebola in his native Sierra Leone did not receive aggressive treatment until nearly two weeks after he first started showing symptoms - a delay that doctors said probably made it impossible for anyone to save his life.

Dr. Martin Salia was in the 13th day of his illness when he reached Omaha on Saturday. It took three days for him to be formally diagnosed after an initial test for Ebola came back negative and then another five days to be flown to the United States.

By the time the 44-year-old Maryland man got to the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, the deadly virus had done too much damage, shutting down Salia's kidneys and making breathing difficult, doctors said. He died Monday.

"In the very advanced stages, even the modern techniques we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach a critical threshold," said Dr. Jeffrey Gold, chancellor of the medical center.

12 PHOTOS
Dr. Salia Sierra Leone Ebola
See Gallery
Man who died from Ebola endured treatment delays
An #Ebola-stricken surgeon dies according to Nebraska Medical Center. http://t.co/jXwf5jF36s http://t.co/y1sLEtX5d1
A mother breastfeeds her child as they wait to see a doctor for a routine visit at the Kuntorloh Community Health Centre in the outskirts of Freetown on November 14, 2014. Ebola-hit Sierra Leone faces social and economic disaster as gains made since the country's ruinous civil war are wiped out by the epidemic, according to a major study. Damage to most sectors of the economy will see growth shrink from 20.1 percent last year to just five percent in 2014, the finance ministry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)
A baby naps on his mother's shoulder as they enter the vaccination room during a routine visit at the Kuntorloh Community Health Centre in the outskirts of Freetown on November 14, 2014. Ebola-hit Sierra Leone faces social and economic disaster as gains made since the country's ruinous civil war are wiped out by the epidemic, according to a major study. Damage to most sectors of the economy will see growth shrink from 20.1 percent last year to just five percent in 2014, the finance ministry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG (Photo credit should read FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images)
A disguised supporter of Ivory Coast's national football team holds a placard reading 'Stop Ebola', as he attends the 2015 African Cup of Nations qualifying football match between Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone on September 6, 2014 at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny stadium in Abidjan. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical workers of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy hospital in Monrovia put on protective suits prior to carrying bodies of Ebola virus victims on September 6, 2014. The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has climbed above 2,000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on September 5, as it voiced hopes a vaccine could be available in November. The deadly virus has claimed 2,097 lives out of 3,944 people infected in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since emerging last December, the UN's health organ said after a two-day crisis meeting in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A medical worker of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia disinfects a wall on September 6, 2014. The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has climbed above 2,000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on September 5, as it voiced hopes a vaccine could be available in November. The deadly virus has claimed 2,097 lives out of 3,944 people infected in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since emerging last December, the UN's health organ said after a two-day crisis meeting in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Medical workers of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy hospital in Monrovia, responsible for transport of the bodies of Ebola virus victims, wear their protective suits as they walk past a sick woman waiting for assistance, on September 6, 2014. The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has climbed above 2,000, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on September 5, as it voiced hopes a vaccine could be available in November. The deadly virus has claimed 2,097 lives out of 3,944 people infected in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since emerging last December, the UN's health organ said after a two-day crisis meeting in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Sierra Leone's government said it was shocked to learn that Salia was dead and questioned whether "the strain of the 16-hour trip could have had a negative impact on his recovery."

The virus has already killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa.

Salia, who chose to work in his homeland despite more lucrative opportunities elsewhere, was first tested for Ebola on Nov. 7, but the test was negative, and he was discharged from a treatment center in Sierre Leone.

It's not unusual to see false negative tests for Ebola in the early stages because the amount of the virus in the bloodstream is still low, said Dr. Phil Smith, the infectious-disease expert who leads the Nebraska Medical Center's biocontainment unit.

The U.S. government warns doctors to be wary of possible false negative tests for Ebola.

Salia tested positive for the disease on Nov. 10 but did not arrive at an Omaha hospital until Saturday.

Two other Ebola patients treated in Omaha this fall arrived at the hospital roughly a week earlier in their illnesses, before nausea, vomiting and more serious symptoms set in. Both of those men recovered.

Government officials in Sierra Leone promised a full investigation into the treatment Salia received.

"At this point, we can't say for certain whether it was this misdiagnosis or not that led to his death," Deputy Information Minister Theo Nicol said in a statement to The Associated Press. The government planned to request a full medical report from the hospital where he was last treated.

Salia, a permanent U.S. resident, was reportedly receiving blood from an Ebola survivor while in Sierra Leone, the government statement said. The treatment is believed to provide antibodies to fight the virus.

Doctors with an air-transport service assessed Salia in Sierra Leone last week before deciding he was stable enough for the long flight to Nebraska.

In Omaha, Salia was placed on kidney dialysis and a ventilator and was given several medications, the hospital said. He was given the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp and received another plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor.

"I know that we gave him every possible chance to survive. I think that his family feels confident in that as well," Dr. Daniel Johnson said Monday at a news conference.

Salia's wife, Isatu Salia, who lives in New Carrollton, Maryland, said Monday that the family believed he was treated "in the best place possible."

But by the time her husband arrived in Omaha, he was already unresponsive, doctors said.

In a Friday telephone interview, she said she had spoken to her husband and prayed with him. Although his voice sounded weak and shaky, she said he told her "I love you" in a steady voice.

Salia graduated from the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons training program in 2008. He was free to practice anywhere he wanted, but he chose to stay in Sierra Leone, where the need for surgeons is immense.

"He honestly believed that's what God wanted him to do," said Bruce Steffes, executive director of the academy.

Salia was a member of a United Brethren Church congregation in Sierra Leone, and the church helped support his medical training.

Jeff Bleijerveld, director of global ministries for the church, knew Salia through missionary work. He said Salia's death is a testament to "his Christian faith, his willingness to, if necessary, lay down his life for others."

Related links
Ebola death toll in West Africa could become 'unpalatable,' expert says
Mali reports 2 new Ebola deaths in capital

Read Full Story