Mike Koozmin/the s.f. examinerDr. Ian Crozier was the third American treated at Emory University Hospital after contracting Ebola. “I’m the sickest [American] Ebola survivor so far

American Ebola survivor recounts illness in SF

Until this week, Dr. Ian Crozier, an infectious disease specialist and Ebola survivor, was known to the world simply as Patient No. 3.

Patient No. 3, who in August was deployed by the World Health Organization to an Ebola treatment unit in Sierra Leone, was the third American to be treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after becoming infected with the deadly virus. The patient was kept anonymous as he was flown from the West African nation to Atlanta for treatment in early September.

This fall, the doctor spent six weeks recovering at the hospital and more than a month regaining his strength in rehab before revealing his identity Sunday to help acknowledge those who continue to battle the disease.

“We really need to think about what we're going to learn from this, what's going to happen the next time this occurs,” Crozier said Tuesday at a panel of global health experts at UC San Francisco on the risks of Ebola.

Dr. Jaime Sepulveda, head of the UCSF Global Health Sciences, believes the biggest challenge in fighting Ebola today is finding enough health care workers who can respond to the hot zones in West Africa — which is particularly difficult given that much of Ebola remains a mystery. There is no known cure or vaccine for the virus.

Crozier, who wore personal protective equipment while treating patients, does not know how he contracted Ebola.

The morning of Sept. 6, Crozier was conducting rounds at one of the only two Ebola treatment facilities at the time in Sierra Leone, when he developed a fever and headache. He recalled how he immediately isolated himself in his hotel room, drew his own blood and waited for the Ebola test results.

The next day, Crozier's colleague called him, crying. The test was positive.

After being flown to Emory Hospital, Crozier suffered multisystem organ failure and required a ventilator. He remembers nothing of his first three weeks fighting the disease until he woke up on Sept. 27, a few days after his 44th birthday.

“I'm the sickest [American] Ebola survivor so far,” said Crozier, who credits his recovery to the treatment he received from the doctors and nurses at Emory. “Nobody has ever received the level of critical care that I did.”

Since being released from the hospital, Crozier has continued to recover in rehab. The disease has taken its toll on the doctor, who still has difficulty with his short-term memory. He is 30 pounds lighter than before he became sick.

“This is a villain of a virus,” Crozier said. “It not only kills lots of people but it does it in a way that robs human beings of their dignity.”

As of Tuesday, more than 6,300 patients had died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the three countries with the most widespread transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Strengthening health care systems is crucial in helping quell this and future outbreaks of Ebola, doctors said at the panel.

Dr. Alex Coutinho, the former executive director of Uganda's Infectious Diseases Institute who spent more than 30 years living in Africa and saw several previous Ebola outbreaks, said the current epidemic will not be the last Ebola outbreak the world sees.

But first, this epidemic must be stopped and a vaccine for humans must be developed, Coutinho said.

“Efforts to make sure that this epidemic is stopped in the next six months is very urgent,” he said.

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