Second American tests positive for Ebola in Liberia

BY Xander Landen  July 27, 2014 at 5:17 PM EDT
Staff of the international aid organization, Samaritan's Purse, put on protective gear at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Dr. Kent Brantly, an American who was recently infected by Ebola, is currently being treated at the hospital's isolation center.

Staff of the international aid organization, Samaritan’s Purse, put on protective gear at the ELWA hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Dr. Kent Brantly, an American who was recently infected by Ebola, is currently being treated at that hospital’s isolation center. Credit: AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso via Getty Images

A second American citizen working to treat Ebola patients in Liberia has tested positive for the deadly virus, an international aid organization reported Sunday, amid the outbreak that has ravaged West Africa since March. 

Nancy Writebol, a North Carolina woman and an employee of the Christian humanitarian group, Serving in Mission, contracted the disease while working at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. She has been working in the region since March.

On Saturday, the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse said that Dr. Kent Brantley, 33, a Texas doctor working at the same hospital, also tested positive for Ebola and was undergoing treatment at the isolation center in Monrovia where he worked.

The center will continue to remain open, the aid organization said in a press release.

The organization’s website says Writebol has two children and Brantly has worked as a family practice physician in Forth Worth, Texas, and is married with two children.

Earlier this week, Sheik Umar Khan, a leading Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone, was also infected with the virus. 

Occurrences of aid workers contracting the diseases they were trying to treat are common — something Dr. Brantly spoke out about earlier this year.

“In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been healthcare workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals,” Brantly said.

West Africa’s Ebola epidemic is now the deadliest on record, according to the World Health Organization, which said the virus has a mortality rate of about 60 percent and has lead to more than 660 deaths.

Responding to the outbreak has been particularly challenging for international relief organizations, as they routinely encounter violence and mistrust among West African communities.

Earlier this month PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown spoke with Laurie Garrett of the Council on Foreign Relations about the buildup of resentment against health workers trying to contain the Ebola outbreak. 

“It is a general fearfulness from the population,” Garrett said. “Widespread crazy rumors, such as the doctors are infecting people … and you have to stay away because they are ruining hospitals. All of this is making the problem absolutely catastrophic.”