Atlanta's Emory University Hospital takes in first of two US Ebola victims

Unease among some as hospital takes in first of two Americans

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 6:53am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 6:53am

The first of two American aid workers infected with the deadly Ebola virus landed in the United States yesterday, as Americans worried about their safety.

A chartered medical aircraft carrying Dr Kent Brantly touched down at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia shortly before noon local time, a base spokesman said.

Brantly was transferred to an ambulance to be taken to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment in an isolated and specially equipped room.

Brantly works for the North Carolina-based Christian organisation Samaritan's Purse. Another group member, missionary Nancy Writebol, is due to be brought to the US soon, as the plane is only equipped to carry one patient at a time.

Brantly and Writebol were in Liberia helping respond to the worst Ebola outbreak on record when they contracted the disease.

Since February, more than 700 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and a man in Nigeria have died from the infection.

Despite concern among some people over bringing Ebola patients to the US, health officials have said bringing the aid workers into the country would not put the public at risk.

The facility at Emory, set up with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, is one of only four in the United States with the facilities to deal with such cases. It is physically separate from other patient areas, providing a high level of clinical isolation.

"We have a specially designed unit, which is highly contained. We have highly trained personnel who know how to safely enter the room of a patient who requires this form of isolation," Bruce Ribner, an infectious disease specialist at Emory, said.

Ribner said he hoped the medical support available at Emory could improve the chances of survival for the patients. The hemorrhagic virus can kill up to 90 per cent of those who become infected, and the fatality rate in the current epidemic is about 60 per cent.

The two patients will be treated primarily by a team of four infectious disease physicians. All medical staffers who treat them will don masks, hoods, gloves and an outer shell over their clothing to protect them from the bodily fluids that can spread the virus.

The patients will be able to see loved ones through a plate glass window and speak to those outside their rooms by phone or intercom. Brantly is a 33-year-old father of two young children, and Writebol is a 59-year-old mother of two children.

Ribner said there was no question that returning the critically ill patients was the right thing to do.

"They have gone over on a humanitarian mission and they have become infected giving medical care," he said.

"We owe them the right to receive the best medical care that is available."

Despite such reassurances, some people said they were uncomfortable with the idea of Ebola patients being treated in their home town.

"That worries me," said Lisa Jackson as she waited for a bus near the hospital. "They shouldn't even let them across the border."

A visitor to the hospital where the two patients will be treated was also uncertain.

"There is a little bit of worry," Jenny Kendrix, 46, said of having the Ebola virus patient brought to the same hospital where her husband was being treated for cancer. "There is worry about it getting out."

McClatchy Tribune, Reuters