Dr. Martin Salia, Sierra Leone Surgeon, Dies of Ebola in Nebraska

Nebraska Medical Center has announced the second death due to Ebola on American soil this morning. Dr. Martin Salia, a citizen of Sierra Leone with permanent U.S. residency, has died.

Dr. Martin Salia Photo credit: United Methodist News Service
Dr. Martin Salia
Photo credit: United Methodist News Service

“Dr. Salia was extremely critical when he arrived here, and unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we weren’t able to save him,” said Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the biocontainment unit. Salia was placed on dialysis, a ventilator and given several medications to support his organ systems. He was given the experimental drug ZMapp on Saturday. He also received a plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor — a treatment that is believed to provide antibodies to fight the virus.

The first two Ebola patients to return to the U.S., Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, were treated with ZMapp in August. Their treatments exhausted that supply of ZMapp and Salia was treated using a new batch of the drug.

“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.”

And we are now learning that Dr. Salia initially tested negative for Ebola.

Smith said Salia tested negative for the virus on Nov. 7, in the early days of his illness. Smith said “false negative” test results are possible in the first days of symptoms when the viral load is relatively low. Salia ultimately tested positive for the virus Nov. 10.

Dr. Salia arrived in the United States on November 8th, despite the test results – and was clearly critically ill. Now, this first test was run in Sierra Leone, but still, it was a false negative in the early days of the disease. And Kaci Hickox threw a temper tantrum over quarantine because she had tested negative, and then was shocked over being shunned for it.

Our condolences go out to Dr. Salia’s wife and two sons.

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Ava Gardner