ATLANTA – An American aid worker infected with Ebola arrived Tuesday in Atlanta, joining a second patient being given an experimental treatment that has never before been tested on humans.
Nancy Writebol, 59, traveled from Monrovia, Liberia, to Emory University Hospital, just downhill from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She arrived two days after Kent Brantly, a doctor with whom she had worked in Liberia and who also contracted Ebola, showed up for treatment.
The differences were stark in how they went from the ambulance to Emory, which has a highly specialized isolation unit. While Brantly, 33, was able to walk with assistance into the hospital, Writebol – covered from head to toe in a protective suit – was wheeled in on a stretcher.
Still, the 59-year-old Writebol was described as weak but showing signs of improvement.
A week ago we were thinking about making funeral arrangements for Nancy, her husband, David Writebol, said in a statement read by the president of SIM USA, the aid group with which she was working in Liberia. Now we have a real reason to be hopeful.
Brantly and Writebol were both infected despite taking precautions as they treated Ebola patients in West Africa.
The treatment, called ZMapp, was developed with U.S. military funding by a San Diego company, using antibodies harvested from lab animals injected with parts of the Ebola virus. Tobacco plants are being used to make the treatment.
It’s impossible to know whether the drug saved these workers, CDC Director Tom Frieden emphasized. Every medicine has risks and benefits, he said. Until we do a study, we don’t know if it helps, if it hurts, or if it doesn’t make any difference.