First Ebola case on US soil as doctor returns home (Update)

August 2, 2014 by Jean-Louis Santini

Doctors worked to save America's first Ebola virus patient Saturday after he arrived in the United States aboard a private air ambulance and was whisked to a state-of-the-art hospital isolation unit.

Onboard was stricken doctor Kent Brantly, one of two American aid workers infected with Ebola as they helped to battle an Ebola outbreak that has claimed more than 700 lives in West Africa since March.

The Gulfstream jet, equipped with a collapsible isolation chamber, landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base outside Atlanta, Georgia just before 11:50 am (1550 GMT).

The jet pulled up at an aircraft hangar, where it was met by an ambulance and several vehicles, and the convoy then wound its way across Atlanta to Emory University Hospital.

Images showed three individuals wearing white bio-suits emerge from the ambulance, with one, apparently Brantly, led gingerly into the hospital.

His wife Amber Brantly asked for people to pray for his recovery and that of those stricken with the virus in Liberia.

"It was a relief to welcome Kent home today," she said in a statement.

"I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the US. I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital."

Christian missionary worker Nancy Writebol is expected to be airlifted back to the United States in the coming days by the same method as Brantly.

"We thank God that they are alive and now have access to the best care in the world," said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, the organization for which Brantly was working in West Africa.

The State Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, World Health Organization and Emory Hospital all helped in the effort.

Cutting-edge isolation unit

Brantly and Writebol will be treated at Emory's cutting-edge isolation unit, which has previously been used to care for individuals infected during the SARS epidemic that erupted in Asia in 2002-2003.

It is one of only four such facilities in the United States and is located near the CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

Brantly's arrival marks the first time a patient infected with Ebola has been treated anywhere in the United States, triggering criticism in some quarters.

Business magnate and television personality Donald Trump argued that the patients should be barred from returning to US soil.

However Bruce Ribner, who oversees the isolation unit at Emory, dismissed the criticism.

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

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

The US State Department said the "safety and security of US citizens" remained the paramount concern.

"Every precaution is being taken to move the patients safely and securely, to provide critical care en route on a noncommercial aircraft, and to maintain strict isolation upon arrival," a State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Emory Healthcare said the establishment was "privileged" to be treating the infected individuals.

"Emory University Hospital physicians, nurses and staff can treat them safely and effectively, and we are honored to have the privilege of caring for these patients who contracted Ebola while serving on a humanitarian mission," a statement said.

"These two Americans want to come back home and be treated here, and we are committed to helping them."

The hospital said Brantly and Writebol would be the only patients housed in the isolation unit.

"This is not because of concerns of exposure, but, rather, for privacy matters considering the high-profile nature of these patients," it explained.

The latest outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has killed 729 people of the more than 1,300 infected since March.

The World Health Organization has said the fast-moving outbreak was causing "catastrophic" loss of life in the affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Ebola, which has no vaccine, causes severe muscular pain, fever, headaches and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.

It has killed around two thirds of those it has infected since its emergence in 1976, with two outbreaks registering fatality rates approaching 90 percent.

Explore further: US evacuating two Americans sick with Ebola (Update)

Related Stories

US evacuating two Americans sick with Ebola (Update)

August 1, 2014
Two Americans infected with Ebola in West Africa will be evacuated back to the United States in the coming days to be cared for in strict isolation, officials said Friday.

US doctor in Africa tests positive for Ebola

July 27, 2014
(AP)—A U.S. doctor working with Ebola patients in Liberia has tested positive for the deadly virus, an aid organization said Saturday.

'Experimental serum' is offered to US Ebola patients

July 31, 2014
A US doctor stricken with Ebola in Liberia was offered an experimental serum but insisted that his colleague receive it instead, a Christian aid agency said Thursday.

US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

August 1, 2014
(AP)—U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to the three West African countries hit by the worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history.

Peace Corps withdraws from W. Africa over Ebola fears

July 31, 2014
The US Peace Corps announced Wednesday it was pulling hundreds of volunteers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone due to growing concerns over the spread of the deadly Ebola epidemic raging in West Africa.

Ebola kills Liberian doctor, 2 Americans infected

July 28, 2014
(AP)—One of Liberia's most high-profile doctors has died of Ebola, officials said Sunday, and an American physician was being treated for the deadly virus, highlighting the risks facing health workers trying to combat an ...

Recommended for you

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Faulty gene linked to obesity in adults

August 18, 2017
Groundbreaking new research linking obesity and metabolic dysfunction to a problem in the energy generators in cells has been published by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University ...

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

New test differentiates between Lyme disease, similar illness

August 16, 2017
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. But it can be confused with similar conditions, including Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. A team of researchers led by Colorado ...

Addressing superbug resistance with phage therapy

August 16, 2017
International research involving a Monash biologist shows that bacteriophage therapy – a process whereby bacterial viruses attack and destroy specific strains of bacteria - can be used successfully to treat systemic, multidrug ...

Can previous exposure to west Nile alter the course of Zika?

August 15, 2017
West Nile virus is no stranger to the U.S.-Mexico border; thousands of people in the region have contracted the mosquito-borne virus in the past. But could this previous exposure affect how intensely Zika sickens someone ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Aug 05, 2014
It is not the more virulent strains that are a worry, it is the weaker ones.

This counter-intuitive statement makes perfect sense when we reflect on previous Ebola outbreaks that didn't spread far. The reason was that earlier strains were so virulent that people died before they had a chance to move very far from the source and up to 80% kill rate meant that there was little prospect of the disease mutating and adapting to human hosts.

Thus this less virulent strain that is currently spreading does not kill immediately and so people can move far from the source of the outbreak and create whole new outbreaks in other areas far from the source, potentially even as far away as the USA.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.