When Dr. Olivet Buck became the fourth Sierra Leone doctor to die from Ebola after she was denied evacuation, the third American healthcare worker to contract Ebola in West Africa was well on the way to recovery back in Omaha, Nebraska.
For many African healthcare workers, who form the bulk of the aid team, a lack of funding has prevented their medical evacuations to Europe or the U.S., where treatment and facilities are more robust. For Western workers, though, systems are already in place for those who become infected with Ebola. And the procedures are, comparatively, fairy tales. Patients are whisked away in futuristic medical evacuation planes. Doctors rush to approve the use of experimental drugs. They will live to tell their story, or so it has been reassured in the U.S. after the nation’s first confirmed Ebola patient.
But most Ebola-infected healthcare workers will not be as lucky asDr. Rick Sacra, or his fellow American Ebola survivors, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly. While one would think that healthcare workers, of all people, would be less likely to succumb to Ebola if they contracted the virus, the fatality rate of Ebola-infected healthcare workers is a stunning 57%, according to WHO’s most recent data. Even more remarkable is that the overall case fatality rate of the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak is 47%, and the two rates appear only to be diverging. (A chi-squared test shows the difference is statistically significant at the 0.05 level, meaning it is unlikely this discrepancy is due to chance.)
WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic cautioned that the numbers are not perfect, but said they do illuminate a significant trend: Why are healthcare workers just as easily, if not more easily, falling victim to the virus they’ve set out to defeat?