The Slatest

Doctor Brought to Nebraska for Ebola Treatment Has Died

Martin Salia was being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center Biocontainment Unit in Omaha.

Photo by Brian C. Frank/Reuters

Surgeon Martin Salia, who was brought to Nebraska on Saturday to receive treatment after contracting Ebola in Sierra Leone, has died. He was in “extremely critical” condition when he arrived, a hospital official said, and passed away at around 4 a.m. this morning. From the New York Times:

In a statement, the hospital said that Dr. Salia was suffering from advanced symptoms of Ebola, including kidney and respiratory failure, when he arrived on Saturday. Treatments, the statement said, included kidney dialysis and ventilation as well as a blood plasma transfusion from a patient who has recovered from Ebola and an experimental drug, ZMapp.

Two other patients, cameraman Ashoka Mukpo and doctor Rick Sacra, had previously been treated successfully for the disease at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Making Salia’s case particularly tragic, the Washington Post reports, was a test he took earlier this month that erroneously found him to be Ebola-free:

The doctors who tended to him in Freetown appeared to be unaware that an early Ebola test — taken within the first three days of the illness — is often inconclusive. In a country where information about the disease continues to move slowly, it was another potentially tragic mistake.

In many cases, a negative test at that stage means nothing because “there aren’t enough copies of the virus in the blood for the test to pick up,” said Ermias Belay, the head of the CDC’s Ebola response team in Sierra Leone.

Salia was not working at an Ebola treatment facility when he contracted the disease, and it’s not known exactly how he was infected. He was a Sierra Leonean citizen and a permanent resident of the United States whose family lives in Maryland; his wife, an American citizen, asked the State Department to evacuate him and agreed to reimburse the government for the cost of the operation.

Read more of Slate’s Ebola coverage.