A Massachusetts hospital is awaiting test results on a doctor and missionary who was successfully treated for Ebola he contracted in Africa and now is back in the hospital with what appears to be a respiratory infection.
Doctors at UMass Memorial Medical Center said in a statement that Dr. Richard Sacra was hospitalized Saturday for observation and is in stable condition with a cough and conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye.
The hospital stressed that doctors don't believe the virus has recurred. They are awaiting test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation, which they expect to have by late Monday.
Meanwhile, Sacra is in isolation at the hospital.
"We are isolating Dr. Sacra to be cautious pending final confirmation of his illness," said Dr. Robert Finberg, who is heading Sacra's medical team. "We think it is highly unlikely that he has Ebola. We suspect he has an upper respiratory tract infection."
He spent much of the last two decades in Liberia, working with a missionary group. He also works at Family Health Center of Worcester.
Bruce Johnson, president of the SIM USA missionary group, said in a news release that Sacra first visited a Boston-area hospital emergency room Saturday morning because of a persistent cough and low-grade fever and concern that he might be getting pneumonia. Johnson said Sacra was transferred to UMass Memorial for observation as a precaution under CDC guidelines.
Dr. Phil Smith of the Nebraska Medical Center, where Sacra was treated, told SIM that Sacra's recent viral illness weakened his immune system but his current symptoms aren't those of someone suffering from Ebola, Johnson said.
"Dr. Sacra did the right thing by going to the hospital," Smith said in a statement released by SIM. "He's been through a lot over the last month, and he wanted to be sure his respiratory illness didn't worsen. Being a doctor himself, he knows the importance of preventative care."