American Doctor and Nurse Cured of Ebola, But Thousands Still Dying, Mostly Women

It’s been a long trip for Dr. Kent Brantly and his colleague Nancy Writebol, but after weeks back in the United States and in confinement, the two have been officially declared recovered from the life threatening and highly contagious Ebola virus. The two Americans, who had been working in Liberia in a missionary group that was helping patients suffering from the disease before contracting it themselves, were airlifted back to the U.S. at the end of July to undergo more radical and experimental treatment.

For them, it was a success.

“Brantly’s condition started to improve dramatically within an hour after getting [experimental ZMapp] serum, according to Samaritan’s Purse, but it’s unclear if the improvement was directly related to the medication,” reports ABC News. “After his health stabilized, Brantly was evacuated on a specially outfitted plane to Atlanta in early August to the hospital isolation ward.”

Doctors aren’t entirely sure if the drug was partially responsible for Brantly’s recovery, or if it had no bearing and it was the additional care he received at the hospital that helped pull him through. What they do know is that he is now recovered and the virus is gone.

Those still in Liberia aren’t nearly as fortunate, for the most part, as the disease continues to spread, and women, especially, are hardest hit. Buzzfeed’s Jina Moore, reporting from Liberia, tells the story of a number of women caretakers who are disproportionately catching the near fatal virus. “The Ministry of Health says fully 75% of the Ebola deaths it has counted are women, but it doesn’t release disaggregated mortality statistics,” writes Moore. “But Tolbert Nyenswah, the assistant minister of health who provided the estimate, agrees that whatever the number, women bear the biggest mortality burden of this disease. Culturally, they are expected to do the caretaking. ‘In this country,’ he said, ‘men are bullshit.’”

According to Moore, the predominance of women as caretakers, combined with the lack of protective equipment to keep them safe from catching the virus while they tend to the sick, is what is making women contract the virus — and die — in greater numbers. But the sickness and death isn’t just coming from Ebola, but from the hospital crisis that is accompanying the outbreak. Patients sick with other medical issues are being turned away out of fear that they might also have Ebola, and that the medical personnel could contract the disease from their blood or other bodily fluid.

People are dying from lack of basic medical care, mainly due to panic and an overwhelmed medical system. “Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf foresaw precisely this problem,” reports Moore in another powerful article on the crisis. “‘The epidemic is having a chilling effect on the overall health care delivery,’ Sireaf said, when she declared a state of emergency nearly two weeks ago. ‘Out of fear of being infected with the disease, health care practitioners are afraid to accept new patients, especially in community clinics all across the country. Consequently, many common diseases which are especially prevalent during the rainy season, such as malaria, typhoid, and common cold, are going untreated and may lead to unnecessary and preventable deaths.’”

In Liberia, neighborhoods are still under quarantine in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease, and some of those areas are turning to violence as soldiers attempt to keep those barriers intact. Supplies such as sanitizer are running out, food is becoming scarce in the poorest of neighborhoods, and in one case the military has actively fired live rounds upon those in the quarantine zone who tried to leave.

“Police in the Liberian capital fired live rounds and tear gas on Wednesday to disperse a stone-throwing crowd trying to break an Ebola quarantine imposed on their neighbourhood, as the death toll from the epidemic in West Africa hit 1,350,” reports Reuters. ”In the sprawling oceanfront West Point neighbourhood of Monrovia, at least four people were injured in clashes with security forces, witnesses said. It was unclear whether anyone was wounded by the gunfire, though a Reuters photographer saw a young boy with his leg largely severed just above the ankle.”

Official travel bans are going into effect in a hope to curb the spread, but with thousands already sick and well over a thousand dead, the World Health Organization projects it will be “many more months” before the crisis is over. Those most likely to remain at high risk, according to officials? Health care workers and those who are assisting in burial practices. As for treatment, the drug used by Brantly and others has already run out, and there appears to be little likelihood that anyone is spending money developing any other potential cures.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


ERIKA S3 years ago

thank you for sharing

Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

Sorry. But this is the U.S.A. where we only heal people for profit. All you people dying in other countries have 2 problem. 1.) You are poor. 2.) You are black. Either one of those being more than sufficient for the U.S.A. to deny you ANYTHING. (But we are not racist! Ask any Republican!) Now if you were WHITE we would try to save you! - Oh wait a minute, you are still poor. Never mind... You see, in our country we value money over (Your) life.
Mortality rate for Ebola patients outside the U.S. - 60%
Mortality rate for Ebola patients inside the U.S - 0%
Coincidence??? I don't think so!

Cathleen K.
Cathleen K3 years ago

Jan: you nailed it! Bill C: so did you.

When all of this started, my instinct was to get on a plane and go help (I'm an RN). I've worked in Africa surgically repairing fistulas and delivering babies - the two are intimately connected and the level of ignorance among traditional practitioners is uniquely shocking. I've seen stupid shit in South America (mothers telling daughters to start pushing when they first feel rectal pressure and they're four centimeters), but what you see in Africa is truly nuts - the local 'midwife' hitting you because you're trying to pull impacted feces out of a 14 year old's rectum). Then I started thinking about how to contain a viral infection without a dedicated toilet and sink per patient and changed my mind. I'm glad I did.

Oh, and Kent Brantly wasn't 'cured' by that shot. He was recovering on his own, and frankly, would've probably finished doing so in Africa, ditto for his friend. Well nourished white people are really hard to kill today by the mechanism of infectious diseases.

Totum C.
Totum C.3 years ago

The only real protection for health care workers exposed to Ebola victims (not 100%) is the PAPR. This is a positive pressure respirator that helps to prevent outside air from entering since the airflow is always outbound unlike the particle mask being worn which goes negative as much as 50% of the time. Notice that Dr Kent Brantly is being helped into the Emery Center by health care workers who are using PAPR's (Google PAPR).
Emery has had these PAPR's for several years, the question is are the filters out of date.
Material handling and the lack of proper personal protection equipment could be putting our Ebola care givers at great risk.

Totum C.
Totum C.3 years ago

Notice that healthcare workers are wearing goggles. This is an obvious indication that the aerosolized body fluids of Ebola victims can contaminate by contact with the eyes. The question here is are these goggles of the impact type such as for grinding or chipping found at hardware stores or are they specifically designed as a bearer from an aerosolized environment (one way venting).
The particle mask that are being worn are the tie down type and have little to no protection factor. Some healthcare works could be seen wearing their mask over beards which makes disposable mask practically useless since it breaks the face to face mask seal.

Totum C.
Totum C.3 years ago

Not surprising that medical personnel are victims as well of the Ebola outbreak. The mask being worn by medical teams as displayed on the news appear to be basically designed to help protect against airborne particulates erroneously referred to frequently as dust mask. Frequently as well the term used is "surgical mask."

As far as it is know, the Ebola virus is not known to be airborne, hence, the mask as seen on the news are more effective in keeping contaminated hands or gloves away from the face than as protection from an airborne virus which Ebola is not. With that said, sputum as the result of coughing or sneezing that becomes aerosolized or arterial blood spurt is a source of contamination.

There are respirators that are treated and approved by NIOSH that are design with the ability to create a bearer against aerosolized or arterial blood spurt. It does not appear that the respirators being worn by medical personnel are of this type. The so-called surgical mask may or may not have the bearer referred to above.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago


John chapman
John chapman3 years ago

If this were any other part of the world a serum would be available.

Because of the profit factor it's not a priority for the drug companies.

John B.
John B3 years ago

Thanks Robin for the update on this terrible situation.