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Massachusetts Doctor Who Survived Ebola Returning To Africa

Dr. Rick Sacra and his wife Debbie discuss his plans to return to Liberia where he was infected with Ebola last August. Sacra was cured and is now immune to the disease
Dr. Rick Sacra and his wife Debbie discuss his plans to return to Liberia where he was infected with Ebola last August. Sacra was cured and is now immune to the disease
Dr. Rick Sacra and his wife Debbie discuss his plans to return to Liberia where he was infected with Ebola last August. Sacra was cured and is now immune to the disease
Dr. Rick Sacra and his wife Debbie discuss his plans to return to Liberia where he was infected with Ebola last August. Sacra was cured and is now immune to the disease

The Massachusetts doctor who was cured of the deadly Ebola virus is going to return later this week to West Africa to work in the missionary hospital where he was infected.             

 Four months after he was declared Ebola-free, and with his strength and stamina now back, Dr. Rick Sacra will leave Thursday for Liberia, where he had spent much of the last two decades working for a missionary organization.

He plans to spend 3-and-a-half weeks at the missionary hospital just outside Monrovia, but will not work directly with Ebola patients even though he is now immune to the disease.

" I am not planning on testing that immunity," said Sacra. He said he will maintain proper Eboa protocols in part as an example to the other doctors at the clinic.

Sacra, speaking at a news conference at the UMass Medical School in Worcester Monday, said he has obtained his travel visa, received a vaccination for yellow fever, taken a malaria pill, and  is packing medical supplies to bring with him.  It is a familiar routine for the long-time missionary doctor.

" I am less nervous about this trip because the thing I was afraid of the last time, I've had it and thank God I am through it," said Sacra.

Sacra’s last Liberia trip was on August 3 after the Ebola outbreak had closed all the hospitals in the country. He had been delivering babies before becoming ill with a fever on August 29th and immediately suspected it was Ebola.  Airlifted to the United States, Sacra was treated for three weeks at the Nebraska Medical Center.

He was quarantined in a biocontainment unit at the hospital and treated with plasma from Dr. Kent Brantly, another Ebola survivor.  The plasma contained anti-Ebola antibodies

After returning to his home in Holden in late September, Sacra said he a few “bumps in the road.” He was admitted to the Worcester hospital in October with a cough and low grade fever. Tests for Ebola against proved negative.

Sacra said he  had difficulty with vision in his left eye, but that has now mostly cleared up.

Sacra’s announcement that he is returning to Liberia comes as no surprise. After he was released from the Nebraska hospital he said the odds were good he would go back.

Debbie Sacra described Liberia as the couple’s adopted second home.

"There is probably less fear now because we do know he is immune. We did not have any trouble saying  he should go because there is a need and he has a big contribution to make," she said.

Since his return, Sacra has spoken out about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa with appeals for more medical resources.  He said there are now enough hospital beds to care for Ebola patients.  He said the survival rate from the disease is only about 40 percent.

Copyright 2015 WAMC Northeast Public Radio

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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