SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The deadly Ebola virus could infect 1.4 million people in West Africa by January. That's the startling estimate made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Shreveport native is back home after treating Ebola patients in Liberia.
The mere mention of the Ebola virus can send chills down spines, but one Shreveport native faced those fears head on.
"We were all scared. We didn't know what to expect," Dr. Antonio Webb said.
Webb signed up to complete an international rotation in Liberia. It was only after the plane touched down that he learned of the Ebola outbreak.
"There were, I believe, six confirmed cases when I was there. Those patients were quarantined, somehow escaped, and they were found dead," Webb said.
From April until May Webb treated patients in Monrovia at the John F. Kennedy hospital, a facility he described as under-staffed, under-supplied, and oppressively hot because of no air conditioning, except in the intensive care unit.
"A lot of the physicians were treating patients with no gloves, or touching patients with no gloves, and here in the U.S., the first thing we do when a patient comes into our hospital, we put gloves on," Webb said.
He says that the CDC was called in and briefed them on handling the outbreak, but many people in the surrounding villages waited to the last minute to seek treatment.
"They went to the cowboy doctors or the traditional healers, because they didn't believe that a physician could treat them in the hospital, and by the time they came to us, there was nothing that we could do for them," Webb said.
The head of the hospital in Liberia and another emergency room physician that worked alongside Webb became sick with the virus and passed away, but Webb still plans to return.
"One of the physicians that actually got sick with Ebola, he looked at me before I left and he said, 'Make sure you come back and help us.'"
That's exactly what the doctor plans to do. In the meantime, he's back in the U.S. treating patients as passionately as before, but with new-found gratitude for the resources available to him.
Webb is sending medical equipment along with other helpful tools back to Liberia. He was tested for the virus before returning home, and the tests came back negative.