AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
And I'm Ari Shapiro. The worst Ebola outbreak in history has claimed the life of another top doctor. Doctor Sheik Umar Khan had been treating infected patients in Sierra Leone. He was praised as a national hero. Health ministry officials in the country confirmed his death today. And we begin this hour with a look at the toll the disease is taking on health workers. We'll also ask how far scientists are from having an Ebola vaccine.
CORNISH: More than 670 people have been killed across West Africa this year, mostly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. That's where an American doctor is fighting for his life. Kent Brantly is 33 years old and was trained in Fort Worth, Texas. Lauren Silverman of member station KERA begins our coverage.
LAUREN SILVERMAN, BYLINE: For the past few months, Kent Brantly has been caring for Ebola patients in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Then, on Wednesday, he realized he had a fever, one of the first signs of the disease. He immediately put himself into an isolation ward. From there, his condition deteriorated.
DAVID MCCRAY: He is still conversing, and he's in isolation, but he is seriously ill with a very grave prognosis.
SILVERMAN: Doctor David McCray has been a close friend since Brantly started his residency at Fort Worth's John Peter Smith Hospital in 2009. The two spoke Monday, and McCray says Brantly was tired and quiet, but remains in good spirits.
MCCRAY: He's very firm in his resolve that he made the right decision, that this was a calling that he accepted and that he is where he needs to be.
SILVERMAN: After completing his residency in Texas, Brantly, his wife and two kids headed to west Africa to work with the Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse. When the epidemic broke out, he was asked to become director of an Ebola isolation ward in a Monrovia hospital. Brantly says he's certain he didn't violate any guidelines, and isn't sure how he got infected. Brantly new providing healthcare in Liberia would be challenging, and that was even before the Ebola epidemic, but caring for people in need, his friends say, is always what he wanted to do.
KENT SMITH: He intentionally cares about other people more than he cares about himself. He's a great guy.
SILVERMAN: Kent Smith attended the same Fort Worth church as Brantly for years. Smith and worshipers gathered at the Southside Church of Christ earlier this week to pray for Brantly. Two other members of Brantly's medical team in Liberia also contracted Ebola. One died and the other American, Nancy Writebol, is still sick. There is no cure for Ebola, and about 60 percent of patients die, but doctors on the ground say good, supportive care early does help.
CEDRIC SPAK: Getting somebody who's sick like that back to a 21st-century hospital with all its supportive measures would be potentially life-saving.
SILVERMAN: Cedric Spak is an infectious disease specialist at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas. He's done medical work in rural Nigeria, and says hospitals in developing countries often lack infection control measures and supportive care that are standard in the U.S. Melissa Strickland, a spokesperson with Samaritan's Purse, says they explored trying to evacuate Brantly and Writebol to a hospital in Europe or the U.S. but haven't been able to do so.
MELISSA STRICKLAND: There are organizations that will not transport Ebola patients because they do not have the kind of isolation protocols in place that would be necessary, or just because of the fear of transporting an Ebola patient.
SILVERMAN: Brantly's family returned to the U.S. last week for a wedding. Brantly didn't have any symptoms when he last saw his family, and the CDC says people with Ebola are only contagious when they're showing symptoms. David McCray says his friend, Brantly, wants people to focus on the larger epidemic, not just his illness. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Silverman in Dallas.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.