Third American Ebola Patient Is Named

Microscopic view of Ebola virus
(Image credit: lmstockwork/Shutterstock)

A 51-year-old doctor who resides in Boston has become the third American health care worker to contract Ebola during the current outbreak in West Africa.

Dr. Rick Sacra was caring for pregnant women in a hospital in Liberia when he developed symptoms of Ebola and tested positive for the illness, according to SIM USA, a Christian mission organization that employs the doctor.

Sacra was not treating Ebola patients, and it's not yet known how he contracted the disease, Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, said in a news conference today.

Some of Sacra's work included delivering babies and performing C-sections, Johnson said. "Here's a doctor bringing new life into Liberia, as death is surrounding us," Johnson said.

The current Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. [Ebola Virus: 5 Things You Should Know]

Sacra and his wife, Debbie, have worked with SIM since the late '80s; he was at one point SIM's country director in Liberia, Johnson said. Sacra volunteered to go to Liberia after learning that two other health care workers had been infected with Ebola in that country. The two — Dr. Kent Brantly, from the charity Samaritan's Purse, and Nancy Writebol, a nurse with SIM — were treated in the United States, and have recovered. Today, Writebol gave her first public statement regarding her experience with the disease.

There are currently no plans to bring Sacra back to the United States, but SIM is "exploring all opportunities and options," for the doctor's care, Johnson said. "Right now, our focus is the care of Rick right there in Liberia," Johnson said.

Both Brantly and Writebol received an experimental Ebola treatment called ZMapp, but there is no more of the drug to give Sacra, Johnson said.

The news of Sacra's infection is disheartening, but "it does not dampen our resolve and our commitment in SIM to serve the people of Liberia and to attack this Ebola epidemic," Johnson said.

Rick is being cared for at SIM's Ebola care center.

"Many of those who are caring for Rick are those who he has taught and mentored in medical practice. You can imagine, they love and admire Dr. Rick, and are taking good care of him," Johnson said.

Sacra is in good spirits, and his wife is "holding up very well," Johnson said.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.