The marquee at Dr. Kent Brantly’s Fort Worth church read “Pray for Kent” Sunday, as the young doctor in West Africa received intensive treatment for the Ebola virus, contracted while he cared for patients during this year’s outbreak — the biggest in history.
Brantly, 33, was talking and working on his computer Sunday at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, said Melissa Strickland, spokeswoman for the aid group Samaritan’s Purse.
“We are hopeful, but he is certainly not out of the woods yet,” she said.
Ken Isaacs, vice president of program and government relations with Samaritan’s Purse, said Brantly is stable and in very serious condition.
Brantly completed his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He has been working with Samaritan’s Purse since October as part of the charity’s post-residency program for doctors, Strickland said.
Dr. Jason Brewington of Arlington, a clinical faculty member at JPS and a member of the same church — Southside Church of Christ — said he has known Brantly for four years.
Another member of the church, at 2101 Hemphill St., talked to Brantly on Saturday, Brewington said.
“He knows about the prayers for him, but he still wants people to pray for the other doctors and nurses there, and the other patients with Ebola,” Brewington said.
He said Sunday that Brantly and his wife are on a two-year international mission medicine fellowship. Brantly is the medical director for the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse.
“They always believed they would be on a medical mission,” he said. Brantly’s family traveled back to Texas from Liberia a few days ago, and he was supposed to follow soon, Brewington said.
Also Sunday, officials said one of Liberia’s most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, and another American aid worker, Nancy Writebol, has contracted the virus, officials said.
Dr. Samuel Brisbane was treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center in Monrovia, when he fell ill. He died Saturday, said Tolbert Nyenswah, an assistant health minister. A Ugandan doctor died earlier this month.
No known cure
The highly contagious virus is one of the deadliest diseases in the world, with a case fatality rate of 90 percent, according to the World Health Organization. WHO said the current outbreak is the largest ever recorded, killing more than 670 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone since it began earlier this year.
Health workers are at serious risk of contracting the disease, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids.
Photos of Brantly working in Liberia show him in white coveralls made of a synthetic material that he wore for hours a day while treating Ebola patients.
There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms that include fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding. Early treatment improves a patient’s chances of survival.
“Dr. Brantly recognized his own symptoms and began receiving treatment immediately,” Strickland said.
Robert Earley, president and CEO of the JPS Health Network, said Brantly is known as “a very kind man” who is driven to learn about diseases and other ailments.
“There’s an incredible level of braveness in Kent,” Earley said. “You don’t meet people like this every day.”
Brantly was quoted in a posting on the organization’s website this year about efforts to maintain an isolation ward for patients.
“The hospital is taking great effort to be prepared,” Brantly said. “In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been healthcare workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals.”
Earley said he and the staff at JPS were “all stunned” to hear that Brantly was ill.
Earley noted that viruses are not confined to any country and can travel quickly.
“When you live in Dallas-Fort Worth, at an international airport hub, you know these issues in health aren’t regional,” he said.