REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Americans with Ebola returning to US for treatment

Comment: Off

In this undated photo released by the Center for Disease Control, a Aeromedical Biological Containment System which looks like a sealed isolation tent for Ebola air transportation is shown. On Thursday afternoon July 31, 2014, officials at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital said they expected one of the Americans to be transferred there “within the next several days.” The hospital declined to identify which aid worker, citing privacy laws. (AP Photo/Center for Disease Control)

In this undated photo released by the Center for Disease Control, a Aeromedical Biological Containment System which looks like a sealed isolation tent for Ebola air transportation is shown. On Thursday afternoon July 31, 2014, officials at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital said they expected one of the Americans to be transferred there “within the next several days.” The hospital declined to identify which aid worker, citing privacy laws. (AP Photo/Center for Disease Control)

In this undated photo released by the Center for Disease Control, a Aeromedical Biological Containment System which looks like a sealed isolation tent for Ebola air transportation is shown. On Thursday afternoon July 31, 2014, officials at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital said they expected one of the Americans to be transferred there “within the next several days.” The hospital declined to identify which aid worker, citing privacy laws. (AP Photo/Center for Disease Control)

Dr. Kent Brantly is shown in this 2013 photo provided by JPS Health Network. A relief group official says Brantly is one of two American aid workers that have tested positive for the Ebola virus while working to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease at a hospital in Liberia. A spokesman said both Americans have been isolated and are under intensive treatment.(AP Photo/JPS Health Network)

This Oct. 7, 2013 photo provided by Jeremy Writebol show his mother, Nancy Writebol, with children in Liberia. Writebol is one of two Americans working for a missionary group in Liberia that have been diagnosed with Ebola. Plans are underway to bring back the two Americans from Africa for treatment. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jeremy Writebol)

This photo provided by Jeremy Writebol show his parents, David and Nancy Writebol, who are Christian missionaries in Liberia. Nancy Writebol is one of two Americans working for a missionary group in Liberia that have been diagnosed with Ebola. Plans are underway to bring back the two Americans from Africa for treatment. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jeremy Writebol)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

NEW YORK (AP) — 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 this weekend in a private jet outfitted with a special, portable tent designed for transporting patients with highly infectious diseases. The second is to arrive a few days later, said doctors at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, where they will be treated.

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 private aircraft based in Atlanta was dispatched to Liberia where the two Americans — Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — worked for U.S. missionary groups. The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting the groups.

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.

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 arrived in Liberia on the chartered jet and evaluated the patients, and deemed both stable enough for the trip to Atlanta, said Emory’s Dr. Bruce Ribner.

Brantly, who works for Samaritan’s Purse, had been helping treat Ebola patients at a Liberia hospital. Writebol also worked there for another U.S. mission group called SIM, or Serving in Mission, decontaminating those entering and leaving the Ebola care area.

Late last week, a Samaritan’s Purse officials said Brantly, 33, had tested positive for the virus. Shortly after that announcement, Writebol’s infection was disclosed.

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.

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.

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 the West African countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has sickened more than 1,300 people and more than 700 have died this year.

___

Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee, National Security Writer Robert Burns in Washington and video journalist Johnny Clark in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Associated Press

Comments

comments

About the Author