ATLANTA – The first person infected with Ebola to be brought to the United States from Africa was safely escorted into a specialized isolation unit Saturday at one of the nation’s best hospitals, where doctors said they are confident the deadly virus won’t escape.
Fear that the outbreak killing more than 700 people in Africa could spread in the U.S. has generated considerable anxiety among some Americans. But infectious disease experts said the public faces little risk as Emory University Hospital treats the critically ill missionary doctor and his assistant, who is expected to arrive from Liberia in several days.
The U.S. 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 told The Associated Press on Saturday.
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.
Dr. Kent Brantly, of Indianapolis, and his assistant Nancy Writebol will be treated in Emory’s isolation unit for infectious diseases, created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test and treat people exposed to very dangerous viruses.
In 2005, it handled patients with SARS, which unlike Ebola can spread 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.
Nothing comes out of this unit until it is non-infectious, 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.
There is no cure for the virus. There are experimental treatments, but the missionary hospital had only enough for one person, and Brantly insisted that Writebol receive it.