American Physicians Fight Fear & Disease in West Africa

Monday, July 28, 2014

A view of gloves and boots used by medical staff, drying in the sun, at a center for victims of the Ebola virus in Guekedou, on April 1, 2014. (SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty)

Healthcare workers in some parts of West Africa are now taking on two battles—the fight to control the growing threat of the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 670 people in four countries since March, and now armed youths who are threatening doctors who they believe are spreading the disease, not containing it.

One of the latest victims to test positive for the Ebola virus was an American doctor, Dr. Kent Brantly, who was infected with the disease while treating patients in Liberia—he is receiving treatment, but his condition is deteriorating. News of Dr. Brantley's condition comes just days after one of Liberia's most high-profile doctors died from Ebola. 

According to the World Health Organization, more than 100 health workers have been infected with the virus and half of them have died. The Liberian government is now ordering border closures and quarantines as the outbreak continues to spread.

Ken Isaacs, Vice President of Programs at Samaritan's Purse, the international relief organization where Dr. Brantly works, weighs in on the escalating crisis in West Africa.

"I talked with a team this morning; his condition is deteriorating," says Isaacs. "We are gravely worried for him. He is in a very serious condition, and he needs to be evacuated out and we are not able to do that. We are not able to give him the adequate medical attention that he needs in Liberia. It is a blow to the organization, and of course to he and his family."

Isaacs says that the organization is currently still classifying Dr. Brantly as stable, but he says his condition is deteriorating as the disease continues to run through him.

Other healthcare workers from around the world are also experiencing challenges combating the disease in West Africa.

"Ebola is probably one of the most contagious and deadly diseases in the world," says Isaacs. "Extraordinary precautions are taken every step of the way. Protocols of barrier protection, disinfection, scrubbing down, and dressing in and dressing out, and still accidents happen some way or another. All of the healthcare workers that are treating Ebola patients face these risks."

Isaacs says that it is "alarming" that Liberian healthcare workers are not well versed in the dangers of the Ebola virus, and do not know what measures to take to prevent being infected. On Friday, eight out of the 12 new Ebola patients that came to the ELWA Hospital in Liberia's capital city were government healthcare workers.

"They do not know what the disease is, they don't know how to handle it, they don't understand it, and they don't know how to prevent themselves from getting it," says Isaacs. "This is creating a formula for an absolute catastrophe across West Africa."

The Ebola virus is spread by the exchange of bodily fluids—even touching another person's sweat or being too close to someone when they sneeze can transmit the virus.

"When it spreads, unfortunately it's deadly," says Isaacs.

Facing a deadly virus is an enormous challenge in and of itself, but Isaac says that the Samaritan's Purse team also has other obstacles. Yesterday, the Liberian Ministry of Health asked the Samaritan's Purse burial team to go to a community to bury an infected body. 

"We were accompanied by the Ministry of Health in an ambulance," says Isaacs. "When we got out in close to the village—it was about an hour and a half from where the critical management center is—we were met with a roadblock. The men in the ambulance were attacked, they were beaten, cut with machetes, and their car was burned."

Isaacs says that his own staff was not hurt and able to get away, but the team was not able to reach the infected body. Another community does not support the expansion of a quarantine center at ELWA Hospital, and rioted in front of the facility and threatened to burn it down.

"The population doesn't understand the disease, and they don't have the basic knowledge to allow healthcare to come in," he says. "This feeds into a growing catastrophe in West Africa. It's an indicator that the healthcare delivery systems of these countries are totally overwhelmed and that this disease is out of control."



Ken Isaacs

Hosted by:

Todd Zwillich

Produced by:

Megan Quellhorst


T.J. Raphael

Comments [11]

Rita Thumann from Calgary,, Alberta, Canada

I was sad to hear of that disease in Africa. But I thank God for all the Doctors and Nurses who are willing to risk their lives to help. I will continue to uphold them in prayer for their safety and health. May The Lord richly bless them with health and may many souls come to know OurLord and Savior.

Aug. 05 2014 07:57 PM
Tania from Indiana

Laetrile gloves? Did you mean latex gloves, Kathy?

Aug. 01 2014 11:32 AM
Aba Dolo from Liberia

John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. Wow! These precious angels are laying down their lives for "total strangers." I know that God has reserved special crowns for them, which only a few will possess.
My Church, Jehovah Authority in Liberia, began a three-day dry fast for our ill missionaries and others. We are trusting God for healing in spite of the odds. Our prays are also with the families. GOD IS ABLE!

Jul. 30 2014 06:01 AM
Caitlin from North Carolina

Dennis, would you be interested in doing a skype interview with Fox46 Carolinas?

Jul. 29 2014 11:04 AM
Elsa from Hong Kong

Our church will add this to our prayer list. We are praying for Dr. Brantly and Nancy and other medical staff for protection and healing. We will continue to do so. God bless everyone out there. God's faithfulness is your constant shield on that part of the world. You are covered by the shadow of the Almighty! God will be with you in trouble. (Psalm 91.15)

Jul. 29 2014 02:27 AM
Dennis from Wisconsin

I am scheduled to deploy on September 6th for 5 weeks. Christians need to be present in the midst of catastrophe and crisis. After all, they are the only ones with the real truth and the real eternal message. May God help us defeat fear and not let fear motivate us to retreat. I am ready to go.

Jul. 28 2014 07:00 PM
Linda Barany from Arlington, TX

It must be so difficult for all of the health care workers. They are putting their lives on the line and now have to be concerned about getting killed by those who don't understand the disease as well. I will continue to pray for Dr. Brantly, Nancy and the many health care workers in Liberia that they will be protected in every way.

Jul. 28 2014 05:56 PM
Judith A. Norton from Massachusetts

We will certainly add this to our prayer list. We love Samaritan's
Purse and give to them each year as well as to Billy Graham Evangelist Team.

Jul. 28 2014 04:13 PM
Kathy Keough from Chico, California

I'm surprised to see those large gloves on poles to dry and am wondering what is used to disinfect them. Aren't laetrile gloves available? I know they're expensive, but lives hang in the balance. I am praying that the Lord will provide for all necessary fluids and meds and other supportive care for those affected. Also for local people to gain understanding of how to protect themselves and their families. May God bless and reward you all for the work you're doing in West Africa.

Jul. 28 2014 04:01 PM
Kathy Gonzalez from California

Thank you for bringing this to light: it helps us as the church to be able to pray more effectively and to know how we can help. I pray that God heals Dr. Brantly right where he is along with the other workers and He protects them from misguided and violent men. Lead them, Lord, to the knowledge of Jesus through the love that your people have shown. I ask it in His mighty name and His unlimited power to save, heal, and restore.

Jul. 28 2014 03:49 PM
brother Bill from Liberia

We are still encouraging partners to pray for Liberia. We fear the worst.

Jul. 28 2014 03:45 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.