The World Health Organization (WHO) has long acknowledged that among those who are most vulnerable to contracting Ebola, a highly contagious and fatal disease that currently affects Western Africa, are healthcare providers.
WHO has said that while there is still no known cure for Ebola and many of those who contract the disease have poor chances of survival, some patients manage to survive when they are given proper medical treatment underscoring the crucial but risky roles of healthcare workers in Ebola-stricken areas.
The high risk of infection among doctors and other healthcare service providers who provide treatment to infected patients is now highlighted in a case of an American doctor working with Ebola patients in Liberia who was tested positive of the disease.
An aid organization revealed on Saturday that a doctor who leads efforts to help Ebola patients was found positive for the virus that has so far infected about 1,000 individuals and caused at least 600 deaths in an outbreak that has so far affected Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria.
In a statement, the international relief organization Samaritan's Purse said that Kent Brantly was tested positive for Ebola. The 33-year old doctor serves as the medical director of the Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center of the humanitarian group in Monrovia.
Brantly, who has two children, was a family practice physician in Fort Worth in Texas before he went to Liberia to work as part of the charity organization's post-residency program for physicians in 2013. It was not yet clear how the doctor contracted the disease.
Samaritan's Purse spokesperson Melissa Strickland said that Brantly followed the strict safety protocols required when treating patients and that the group intends to conduct an investigation to determine how the doctor, who recognized his own symptoms and had himself confined in an isolated ward, became infected with Ebola.
Brantly knew all along the risks of his job. The doctor had once said that many of those who get infected with the deadly disease are healthcare workers.
"The hospital is taking great effort to be prepared," Brantly said. "In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been healthcare workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals."
Nancy Writebol, another American affiliated with Serving in Mission (SIM), an international interdenominational Christian mission agency, whose work involves decontaminating those who go in and out of an Ebola care area also contracted the disease.
Samaritan's Purse is committed to doing everything possible to help Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol during this time of crisis. "We ask everyone to please pray urgently for them and their families," Samaritan's Purse said in a statement.
Brantly and Writebol currently receive round the clock care and are reportedly already in stable condition.