Americans With Ebola Returning to US for Treatment



PHOTO: Dr. Kent Brantly is shown in this 2013 photo provided by JPS Health Network. | Nancy Writebol is shown in this undated photo.
Dr. Kent Brantly is shown in this 2013 photo provided by JPS Health Network. | Nancy Writebol is shown in this undated photo.
Two American aid workers seriously ill with Ebola will be brought from
West Africa to Atlanta for treatment in one of the most tightly sealed
isolation units in the country, officials said Friday.
One is expected to arrive Saturday, and the other a few days later,
according to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, where they will be
treated. They are due to arrive in a private jet outfitted with a
special, portable tent designed for transporting patients with highly
infectious diseases.
It will be the first time anyone infected with the disease is brought
into the country. U.S. officials are confident the patients can be
treated without putting the public in any danger.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person, not through the air.
The two Americans — Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — worked for
U.S. missionary groups in Liberia at a hospital that treated Ebola
patients. The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention are assisting the groups in their transfer.
The government is working to ensure that any Ebola-related evacuations
“are carried out safely, thereby protecting the patient and the American
public,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement
released Friday.

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A Department of Defense spokesman said Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, will be used for the transfer.
The aircraft is a Gulfstream jet fitted with what essentially is a
specialized, collapsible clear tent designed to house a single patient
and stop any infectious germs from escaping. It was built to transfer
CDC employees exposed to contagious diseases for treatment. The CDC said
the private jet can only accommodate one patient at a time.
Brantly and Writebol are in serious condition and were still in Liberia
on Friday, according to the North Carolina-based charity Samaritan’s
Purse, which is paying for their transfer and medical care.
An Emory emergency medical team in Liberia has evaluated the two aid
workers, and deemed both stable enough for the trip to Atlanta, said
Emory’s Dr. Bruce Ribner. Hospital spokesman Vincent Dollard said the
first patient was scheduled to arrive Saturday.
Brantly, 33, works for Samaritan’s Purse while Writebol works for
another U.S. mission group called SIM. Late last week, Samaritan’s Purse
officials said Brantly had tested positive for the virus. Shortly after
that announcement, Writebol’s infection was disclosed.
Liberia is one of the three West African countries involved in the Ebola
outbreak, the largest since the virus was first identified in 1976.
The two-bed Emory isolation unit opened 12 years ago. It was designed to
handle workers from the CDC if they became infected while working on a
dangerous, infectious germ.

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It is one of about four such units around the country for testing and
treating people who may have been exposed to very dangerous viruses,
said Dr. Eileen Farnon, a Temple University doctor who formerly worked
at the Atlanta-based CDC and led teams investigating past Ebola
outbreaks in Africa.
There is no specific treatment for disease, although Writebol has
received an experimental treatment, according to the mission groups.
“If there’s any modern therapy that can be done,” such as better
monitoring of fluids, electrolytes and vital signs, workers will be able
to do it better in this safe environment, said Dr. Philip Brachman, an
Emory University public health specialist who for many years headed the
CDC’s disease detectives program.
“That’s all we can do for such a patient. We can make them feel
comfortable” and let the body try to beat back the virus, he said.
He was echoed by Emory’s Ribner, one of the doctors who will be seeing
the Ebola patients. He stressed that safety precautions will be taken by
staff in the unit.
“I have no concerns about even my personal health or the health of the
other health care workers who will be working in that area,” Ribner
said.
The unit has its own laboratory equipment so samples don’t have to be
sent to the main hospital lab. Located on the ground floor, it’s
carefully separated from other patient areas, Farnon said.
Health experts say a specialized isolation unit is not even necessary
for treating an Ebola patient. The virus does not spread through the
air, so standard, rigorous infection control measures should work.
The current outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has sickened more than 1,300 people and killed more than 700 this year.
———
Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee, National Security Writer
Robert Burns in Washington and video journalist Johnny Clark and writer
Ray Henry in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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