U.S. doctor with Ebola in Atlanta for treatment
ATLANTA — The first person with Ebola to be brought to the United States from Africa was safely escorted into a specialized isolation unit on Saturday at one of the nation's best hospitals, where doctors said they are confident the deadly virus won't escape.
Dr. Kent Brantly, who was treating patients with Ebola in Liberia when he became infected, was not on a stretcher. News helicopters overhead watched as he got out of the ambulance and walked slowly into Emory University Hospital. Both Brantly and the medic who guided him were dressed in white protective clothing from head to toe.
Amber Brantly was heartened to see her husband climb out of the ambulance.
“It was a relief to welcome Kent home today. I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S.,” she said in a statement. “I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital.”
Even though infectious disease experts said the public faces little risk, there is fear among some Americans that the outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in Africa could spread here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received “nasty emails” and at least 100 calls from people saying “How dare you bring Ebola into the country!” CDC Director Tom Friedman said.
“I hope that our understandable fear of the unfamiliar does not trump our compassion when ill Americans return to the U.S. for care,” Frieden said.
A private plane outfitted with a special, portable tent designed for transporting patients with highly infectious diseases arrived late morning at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, spokesman Lt. Col. James Wilson confirmed. The ambulance left the base in Marietta and drove, without lights or sirens, the 15 miles to Emory University Hospital.
The plane will turn around and go back to Africa for its next patient, Nancy Writebol, a nurse who was Brantly's assistant in Liberia. The two seriously ill Americans worked for North Carolina-based Samaritan's Purse and U.S.-based SIM.
The two will be treated in Emory's isolation unit for infectious diseases.
In 2005, it handled patients with SARS, which, unlike Ebola, can spread like the flu when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
In fact, the nature of Ebola — which is spread by close contact with bodily fluids and blood — means that any modern hospital using standard, rigorous, infection-control measures should be able to handle it.
Emory won't be taking any chances.
“Nothing comes out of this unit until it is noninfectious,” said Dr. Bruce Ribner, who will be treating the patients. “The bottom line is: We have an inordinate amount of safety associated with the care of this patient. And we do not believe that any health care worker, any other patient or any visitor to our facility is in any way at risk of acquiring this infection.”
Still, family members will be kept at a distance for now, the doctors said. The unit “has a plate glass window and communication system, so they'll be as close as 1-2 inches from each other,” Ribner said.
There is no cure for the virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever that kills as many as 80 percent of the people it infects in Africa. There are experimental treatments, but the missionary hospital had only enough for one person, and Brantly insisted that Writebol receive it. His best hope in Africa was a transfusion of blood including antibodies from one of his patients, a 14-year-old boy who survived thanks to the doctor.