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Health Team

Emory: Americans with Ebola deserve best care

Posted August 1, 2014 10:47 a.m. EDT
Updated August 1, 2014 5:27 p.m. EDT

— The two Americans battling the Ebola virus will be transported back to the United States and treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

A specially equipped plane left Cartersville, Ga., Thursday headed to Liberia to pick up Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly. In a statement Friday morning, Samaritan's Purse, which sponsored the mission where the two worked wrote, "Medical evacuation efforts are underway and should be completed by early next week."

Doctors and administrators from Emory discussed their plans with the media Friday afternoon. One patient is expected to arrive at Emory over the weekend and the other by the early part of the week.

"Emory is one of four facilities in the United States capable of handling patients in a special containment unit that can safely care for patients with a serious communicable disease," Dr. Bruce Ribner said.

Writebol was working with Serving in Mission in Liberia in a disinfection unit when she contracted the disease. Brantley was serving a Samaritan's Purse fellowship and had worked with others who have Ebola.

Ebola begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and internal bleeding. The disease spreads through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids as well as indirect contact with "environments contaminated with such fluids," according to the World Health Organization.

There is no known cure, and there is neither an FDA vaccine nor treatment for the disease, Ribner noted.

"The key component is supportive care," he said.

Emory and experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were consulting on possible therapies, but any attempted would be experimental.

"We feel they deserve to have the highest level of care offered for their treatment," Ribner said. "We have the environment and the expertise to safely care for them and offer them the maximum opportunity for recovery from this infection."

The Emory containment unit has been outfitted for such isolated intensive care for about a decade, and the staff is specially trained. Ribner said he had no safety concerns – for himself or other Emory staff – over treating the patients of the dangerous disease. 

Mission representatives described both Brantly and Writebol as being in serious condition but stable.

Writebol's husband, David Writebol, is also in Liberia. He has been able to visit with his wife through a window or while wearing a haz-mat suit, according to a statement from Serving in Mission.

“We are so heartened that Nancy is in stable condition and that plans are underway to bring her back to the U.S.,” said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. “We are grateful for the help and support of the U.S. State Department in this endeavor. As believers in the power of prayer, we covet the prayers of people around the world, not only for Nancy and Kent, but also for all those fighting this brutal virus.”

The Ebola outbreak in west Africa has claimed more than 700 lives so far, and more than 1,300 people have become ill.

The CDC issued its highest possible warning, a level 3, on Wednesday, advising Americans to avoid non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, countries where the virus is present. 

Samaritan's Purse, Serving in Mission and other groups working in those countries announced plans to leave those countries earlier this week.