Two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus will be treated in a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital, according to a July 31 all-Emory email. The patients will be held in a special isolation unit set up in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of four such facilities in the country, and this marks the first time Ebola patients will be in the United States.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, an infectious disease specialist with Emory Hospital, said in a press conference on Friday that transporting the patients to Emory could markedly increase their chances of survival.
“We have two individuals who are critically ill, and we feel that we owe them the right to receive the best medical care,” Ribner said.
The first patient, identified by CNN as Texas-based physician Kent Brantly, arrived at Emory Hospital Saturday afternoon, while Nancy Writebol, a Charlotte, N.C. aid worker, will be transported later next week. Emory has declined to disclose the patients’ names due to privacy laws and considerations, according to its website.
In a July 31 email to the Emory Healthcare community, Associate Vice President of Communications Vince Dollard wrote that while at the hospital, the Ebola patient will be physically isolated from the rest of the community.
”Emory University Hospital has a specially built isolation unit set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases,” Dollard wrote. “It is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation.”
The email goes on to say that the members of the isolation unit are “highly trained in the specific and unique protocols and procedures necessary to treat and care for this type of patient” and are “fully prepared for this type of situation.”
According to CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, a private plane left Georgia on July 31 to transport the patients, who are both affiliated with missionary organizations, from Liberia back to the United States.
According to the most recent numbers from the World Health Organization, over 1,300 cases of Ebola have been diagnosed in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea since March with 729 fatalities.
Transmission of the virus comes from “direct contact with the blood or secretions of an infected person or exposure to objects (such as needles) that have been contaminated with infected secretions,” according to the CDC website on Ebola.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci told The Los Angeles Times that the spread of Ebola in the United States is highly unlikely.
“Given the health care infrastructure and our ability to isolate people who are infected and to take care of them with the proper protective equipment, it is extraordinarily unlikely that there would be an outbreak in the United States so people should not worry,” Fauci said. “It’s the lack of health care infrastructure that leads to the problems.”
Currently, there is no cure for Ebola.
This story will be updated as more information is available.
– By Stephen Fowler
Photo by James Crissman