Partners in Health Clinician Diagnosed with Ebola, Transferred to U.S. [Updated]

The Boston-based humanitarian group confirmed that one of its healthcare workers has contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone.

partners in health

Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone operated by Partners in Health. / Photo by Rebecca E. Rollins via Partners in Health


Updated: April 9, 4:55 p.m.: Partners in Health announced Thursday afternoon that its clinician who was diagnosed with Ebola last month is now free of the virus and has been discharged by the NIH. The organization also noted that the other clinicians who were transported back to the U.S. for monitoring and evaluation have been cleared by the CDC and are no longer under evaluation.

Updated: March 30, 11:15 a.m.: The NIH announced Monday that it has upgraded the patient’s status to fair.

“News of our colleague’s continued improvement has heartened us all—his family and his adopted PIH family in the United States and in West Africa,” said Dr. Paul Farmer in a statement issued by Partners in Health, the nonprofit group that the clinician was working on behalf of in Sierra Leone. “We’re deeply grateful for the superb critical care he received when he needed it and for the supportive care—supportive in every sense—he continues to receive from the wonderful team at NIH.”

Original story:

Boston-based Partners in Health confirmed late Thursday night that one of its clinicians fighting the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has tested positive for the virus and has been transferred to the United States for treatment. (Disclosure: I worked for Partners in Health for more than two years, having left at the end of February to join Boston.)

While the organization did not specify where the patient would be treated, the National Institutes of Health said it will be admitting a U.S. healthcare worker with Ebola to a specialized treatment unit in Bethesda, Maryland.

The global health organization, commonly referred to as PIH, has trained more than 250 clinicians who have been deployed to Liberia and Sierra Leone. They have helped provide care to more than 1,500 Ebola patients. This marks the first time a PIH clinician has contracted the virus.

“Our colleague remains in good spirits and has been transferred to the United States for treatment,” read a statement issued by PIH spokesman Jeff Marvin. “We are proud of all of our clinicians at sites across the world—especially those who have fallen ill in the line of duty—and will seek to ensure that we do our very best to protect them and our patients.”

While Ebola has largely fallen out of media headlines, the World Health Organization reported Thursday that more than 10,000 people across Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea have died as a result of the recent outbreak. The WHO has recorded a total of 24,350 infections.

Dr. Paul Farmer, the organization’s cofounder, previously told the Washington Post that the Ebola outbreak represents the “terrorism of poverty.” To that end, PIH has committed to years-long initiatives in Liberia and Sierra Leone aimed at stopping the outbreak while building health systems that minimize the chance of future epidemics and improve access to healthcare.

The nonprofit has hired more than 600 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone and Liberia, delivering a much-needed counterpunch to the disastrous economic and social effects the outbreak has inflicted on two of the poorest countries in the world. In Liberia, PIH has trained more than 400 teachers in infection control practices to help with the reopening of schools, which were shut down for months.

Presently the group says it has 100 expat clinicians deployed in West Africa.

As of Friday morning, the infected clinician has not been identified.

“Out of respect for the privacy of our colleague and their family, we cannot release additional information at this time. PIH is providing full accompaniment to our colleague’s family,” the statement said.