- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

American Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol said Wednesday she followed “God’s call” to serve in Liberia and that a quick test meant to reassure everyone she did not have the deadly virus turned into a life-changing diagnosis.

Mrs. Writebol, speaking publicly for the first time since her recovery in Atlanta and late-August release, said she never felt fear despite knowing she could die from the virus.

“It’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK,” she said she recalled saying during a press conference at Serving in Mission USA’s campus near Charlotte, North Carolina. “I had no clue what was going to happen. Of course I knew what the outcome could be. Yet there was no fear. There was just this sense of [the] Lord’s peace with us.”

Standing by her husband and fellow aid worker, David, she thanked the long list of people who helped her overcome the virus and those who are still serving in Liberia and the rest of West Africa.

In turns emotional and humorous, she recalled how they placed her stretcher on the baggage conveyor belt to get her into the plane home.

Her treatment at a special unit at Emory University Hospital garnered close media attention this summer as the Ebola virus spread through several West African countries and caused global alarm.

At the same Wednesday news conference, SIM President Bruce Johnson identified the third American missionary to test positive for Ebola as Dr. Rick Sacra, whom he said went to Liberia a month ago to care for non-Ebola patients.

Dr. Sacra is in isolation but not in the U.S., SIM officials said. And it wasn’t certain Wednesday afternoon if he would come to Atlanta for treatment as did Mrs. Writebol and fellow Christian missionary Dr. Kent Brantly.

When those two missionaries fell sick, according to Mr. Johnson, Dr. Sacra called and said, “I’m ready to go.”

In Africa, the death toll in an epidemic that the World Health Organization said this week is “out of control” has topped 1,900. Now a cluster of cases is blooming in Africa’s most-populous country.

Nigerian health officials thought they had contained the disease to a part of Lagos when they quarantined a sick traveler from Liberia, one of the hardest-hit countries. However, WHO officials said Wednesday that the traveler had contact with another man who evaded surveillance, and the latter man then traveled to the oil hub of Port Harcourt and triggered a new cluster of cases.

According to The Associated Press, a doctor and another person in Port Harcourt are now dead, several other people are sick, and Nigerian officials are monitoring up to 200 people. Doctors are both especially vulnerable to Ebola and especially likely to spread it because the virus is transmitted through bodily fluids that doctors routinely come into contact with more than do other people.

“Given these multiple high-risk exposure opportunities, the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Port Harcourt has the potential to grow larger and spread faster than the one in Lagos,” WHO warned.

Mrs. Writebol, a nurse, said her bout with the illness began with malaria-type symptoms in Liberia. She tested positive for malaria and completed treatment for it, but she still ran a fever.

Fellow aid workers did not think she had Ebola, but she took the test. Later, at home, a fellow worker told her that Dr. Brantly had Ebola.

“I have to tell you my heart sank,” she told reporters Wednesday.

But then the worker said that she too had the virus. “David came toward me to give me a hug … and I knew how dangerous that was, and I said, ‘No. Just no,’” she recalled.

She said her time in Atlanta was marked by gradual progress, day by day, and the creature comforts of a running shower.

“Oh, that shower was wonderful,” she said.

She said it is still unclear whether a new Ebola drug, Zmapp, was the key to her recovery, but she also cited her faith and the supportive care she received.

“This is not our story, this is God’s story,” she said. “God is writing this.”

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