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Doctor: Ebola Fatality Rate Running At 70 Percent


Two Americans were released from an Atlanta hospital this week after being declared free of the Ebola virus. They had been infected while working in Liberia. Here's Dr. Kent Brantly at a press conference after his release.


DR. KENT BRANTLY: I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life. And I'm glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic.

SIMON: Local and international doctors and nurses continue to risk their lives to help fight Ebola in West Africa. One of them is Gabriel Fitzpatrick, a doctor and epidemiologist for Medecins Sans Frontieres, Doctors Without Borders. We spoke with him from Sierra Leone about what the news of these two Americans means for treating Ebola internationally.

DR. GABRIEL FITZPATRICK: Well, all I can say is we too in this area are having some positive news stories from patients who have recovered from of Ebola, but this is not due to any experimental medical treatment which is available. When a patient is admitted here with Ebola, they're given various forms of supportive medical treatment such as anti-malaria treatments or spectrum antibiotics, which can treat chest infections, urinary tract infections. And they're also provided IV hydration if that's required. And these have some effects on reducing the mortality rates associated with Ebola, but there are - I have to say - not a treatment for Ebola.

SIMON: Seven out of 10 patients that you admit for treatment with Ebola die. It must be going through your mind what have they done there at Emory in Atlanta that we might be able to use here because they seemingly saved two lives there.

FITZPATRICK: In the situation I am working here at the moment, we have no experience with any experimental drugs. And I am not in a position to comment on that because we are here at the invitation of Sierra Leone. And we cannot do things that break the law, only with possibly faced expulsion. So everything we have done is in conjunction with the government of Sierra Leone. And we will continue to do that. But obviously MSF welcomes any new novel treatments. They should be made available as quickly as possible to patients if they're found to be of adequate value.

SIMON: Dr. Fitzpatrick, I am told you have a family back in Dublin?

FITZPATRICK: I do indeed. I have a - I would describe an exceptional wife. She very bravely puts up with me. I also have a 7-month-old child, a little boy called Osian (ph) so I'll be rushing back there soon as possible once my mission here in Sierra Leone is over.

SIMON: May I ask, do you and do they worry, not just that something might happen to you there, but that you might bring back something?

FITZPATRICK: All the evidence suggests that if you wear full personal protective equipment, and you wear it in the appropriate manner and apply the appropriate infection control procedures in the facility, and on top of that, that you have no accidents while you're working - and by that, I mean a needlestick injury or a splash of bodily fluids into your eye - if none of that occurs and you followed all infection control procedures while working here, your risk of contracting and developing Ebola is almost zero.

At some point, it does cross your mind and you do worry about contracting the illness, but there are only fleeting moments. We have to concentrate on the patients here to provide them with appropriate medical care, but also to make sure our outreach program of finding cases, of following up of contacts is performed in a comprehensive manner so that we can bring this outbreak to a close.

SIMON: I don't want to the leave the conversation with you without asking what can the world do as far as you're concerned?

FITZPATRICK: We need an organization that can provide some leadership across multiple countries in the region of West Africa. To date, we have not seen that occurring. And if we don't find the cases in the community, and we don't do the contact tracing, this outbreak will linger on for months and months. Solving outbreaks is not rocket science. It just requires those features I have described previously. But unfortunately, they're not being applied in an appropriate manner at the moment to reach the world.

SIMON: Dr. Gabriel Fitzpatrick of Doctors Without Borders - Medecins Sans Frontieres. Thanks very much for being with us.

FITZPATRICK: Many thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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