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After Liberia Declared 'Ebola-free,' New Cases Reported

Patient Treated at SIM's ELWA Ebola Care Center in Monrovia; Organization Prepares for Possibility of More as One-Year Anniversary of Infected Americans Approaches

Contact: Palmer Holt, 704-662-2569, pholt@inchristcommunications.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 2, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ -- After 45 days of no new Ebola cases, Liberian health officials had declared the country Ebola-free in May. Now there are a number of new Ebola cases reported in that country, one of whom is being treated in the Ebola Treatment Center at SIM's ELWA campus in Monrovia.

The first case involved a 17-year-old boy, who has since died, according to the Liberian Ministry of Health. The second was transported to ELWA, according John Fankhauser, MD, family physician and SIM's director of medical missions in Liberia.

The two victims were in the same contact chain. The ministry has isolated the community where the patient stayed, providing food and supplies to them during a 21-day monitoring period.

SIM opened the doors of its 130-acre ELWA campus in the fight against Liberia's Ebola outbreak in 2014. It housed half of Liberia's Ebola treatment beds during the height of the crisis.   ELWA medical and support staff worked tirelessly to keep ELWA Hospital open and operating when very few hospitals in Liberia were functioning. They treated Ebola patients and maintained other critically needed operations, such as maternity and pediatric care.

SIM's Dr. Jerry Brown, ELWA medical director and lead physician on Ebola treatment care, was featured on the cover of Time magazine's "Persons of the Year" issue, which honored Ebola fighters around the world.

"While we hoped and prayed there would not be a recurrence of Ebola, our devoted staff is even better equipped to meet the challenge," said Fankhauser.  "The volume of cases was overwhelming last year.  We have remained very vigilant and are committed to continuing to care for patients while protecting our staff."
Fankhauser, a SIM missionary based in Liberia since Nov. 2013, was practicing at ELWA Hospital when the Ebola outbreak began. He continued to serve patients throughout the crisis, pausing for two short breaks with his family.

During the first two months of the outbreak, Fankhauser cared for multiple Ebola patients, including SIM missionary Nancy Writebol and Kent Brantly, MD, of Samaritan's Purse. He also cared for SIM doctor Rick Sacra in Liberia after his Ebola diagnosis, and assumed Sacra's duties at ELWA Hospital when Sacra returned to the U.S. for treatment. 

Construction is underway on a new SIM ELWA Hospital, which will provide expanded capability, medical training facilities, plus a wider range of medical services.  The new facility, being built in partnership with Samaritan's Purse, is expected to be completed in 2016.

A current focus for SIM in Liberia is working with Ebola survivors and those affected by Ebola through specialized medical treatment and trauma-healing workshops for families and others touched by the crisis.
"This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of SIM's ELWA Hospital," said SIM USA President Bruce Johnson. "SIM was in Liberia long before the Ebola crisis, and we continue to stand with and serve Liberians, together looking forward to a brighter future."

SIM (www.simusa.org) is an international Christian mission organization with a staff of around 4,000 workers from more than 60 nationalities. SIM's multicultural, multi-skilled teams serve among diverse people groups in nearly 70 countries on six continents. In addition to medicine, SIM serves in areas of education, community development, public health and Christian witness. While SIM stood for Sudan Interior Mission when it was founded in 1893, it is now a global mission known as SIM (pronounced S-I-M).

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Palmer Holt at 704-662-2569 or pholt@inchristcommunications.com.