Ebola found in doctor’s eye months after virus left blood

Dr. Ian Crozier, a volunteer who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone, had been pronounced disease-free only for doctors to discover the virus still teeming inside his left eye, which changed from blue to green. It later changed back.

ATLANTA — When he was released from Emory University Hospital in October after a long, brutal fight with Ebola that nearly ended his life, Dr. Ian Crozier’s medical team thought he was cured. But less than two months later, he was back at the hospital with fading sight, intense pain and soaring pressure in his left eye.

Test results were chilling: The inside of Crozier’s eye was teeming with Ebola.

Months had passed since Crozier became ill while working in an Ebola treatment ward in Sierra Leone as a volunteer for the World Health Organization. By the time he left Emory, his blood was Ebola-free.

More than a year after the epidemic in West Africa was recognized, doctors are still learning about the course of the disease and its lingering effects on survivors.

Information about the aftermath of Ebola has been limited because past outbreaks were small: no more than a few hundred cases, often with death rates of 50-80 percent. But now, with at least 10,000 survivors in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, patterns are emerging.

Crozier, 44, ruefully calls himself a poster child for “post-Ebola syndrome”: Besides eye trouble, he has had debilitating joint and muscle pain, deep fatigue and hearing loss.

As the outbreak wanes, the World Health Organization has begun to gather information to help those who have not fully recovered, said Dr. Daniel Bausch, a senior consultant to the WHO and an infectious-disease specialist at Tulane University.

As the days passed with no sign of improvement, Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious-disease specialist who had handled much of Crozier’s care, got special permission from the Food and Drug Administration to use an experimental antiviral drug.

Gradually, over the next few months, Crozier’s sight returned.