Aggressive treatment not enough to save Ebola patient in Omaha

Doctors with the Nebraska Medical Center bio-containment unit discuss the treatment of Dr. Martin Salia. (Photo by Grant Gerlock, NET News)
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November 17, 2014 - 4:27pm

The latest Ebola patient to be treated in Omaha died Monday morning. Dr. Martin Salia is the second Ebola death to occur in the U.S. His doctors say by the time he arrived in Nebraska for treatment, the virus had progressed too far to be stopped.


Martin Salia was flown to Omaha on Saturday afternoon and taken to the Nebraska Medical Center’s bio-containment unit. At a press conference with members of his treatment team, Dr. Dan Johnson recalled Salia’s critical condition.

“He had no kidney function,” Johnson said. “He was working extremely hard to breath, and he was unresponsive.”

Doctors and nurses started aggressive treatment. They put Salia on dialysis and a ventilator. To help fight the virus, he had a plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor. His family also approved the use of an experimental drug called Zmapp.

But the virus had done too much damage. Salia died Monday morning. He was 44 years old.

Jeffrey Gold, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said it’s a reminder that there are limits to Ebola treatment

“In the very advanced stages even the most modern techniques that we have at our disposal are not enough to help these patients once they reach a critical threshold,” Gold said.

Salia contracted Ebola while working as a surgeon in Sierra Leone. He was the third patient to be treated for Ebola in Omaha but the first to die.

One difference from the previous patients is how long he had shown symptoms. Richard Sacra and Ashoka Mukpo both started treatment within eight days of symptoms. Salia was symptomatic 13 days before making it to the Nebraska Medical Center.

Salia’s remains will be cremated. Blood samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta for research.

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