Ebola: First case coming to America

The largest outbreak in history continues unabated in West Africa. Three Americans have been infected, one of whom was the man who died upon his arrival in Nigerian megacity Lagos last week. Now, Emory University hospital in Atlanta will be taking the transfer of an Ebola patient, reportedly an American aid worker:

Emory University Hospital has been told a patient with the Ebola virus will be transferred to its hospital in Atlanta.

According to the Associated Press, the patient is an American aid worker, although the individual’s identity was not released due to privacy laws.

Emory says it has a special isolation unit to treat patients who are exposed to serious infectious diseases which is physically separate from other patient areas at the hospital.

Emory’s isolation unit is one of only four such units in the country, according to the hospital, which also said its staff are highly trained in the procedures necessary to care for the patient.

CNN reports indicate the patient coming to Atlanta is likely missionary Nancy Whitebol, but her arrival day is unknown. Both she and Dr. Kent Brantly, affiliated with Samaritan’s Purse, are still alive:

While U.S. officials have remained mum on the issue, a source told CNN that a medical charter flight left from Cartersville, Georgia, on Thursday evening.

A CNN crew saw the plane depart shortly after 5 p.m. ET. The plane matched the description provided by the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately known when the two Americans — identified by the source as Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol — would arrive in the United States, or where the plane would land.

At least one of the two will be taken to a hospital at Emory University, near the headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, hospital officials told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

The patient will be cared for in an isolation unit at the hospital that is separate from patient areas, Gupta said.

With the return of Brantly and Writebol to the United States, it will be the first time that patients diagnosed with Ebola will be known to be in the country.

Brantly and Writebol are described as being in stable-but-grave conditions, with both reportedly taking a turn for the worse overnight, according to statements released Thursday by the faith-based charity Samaritan’s Purse.

Emphasis mine. Is this something the president is reading about in the papers or is someone—anyone—making sure there’s a protocol for containing this kind of thing that’s a little more rock solid than the one that left smallpox hanging out in a minifridge for 50 years? Sure, the CDC is in Atlanta, but the CDC and the other federal agencies in charge of super-deadly infectious diseases have lost control of several deadly diseases in the past several months. I’m not a big fearmonger when it comes to public health—most of those articles about buttchugging and the cinnamon dare are nonsense—but this is a rather more serious threat and there’s plenty of recent evidence that the federal agencies in charge of such things aren’t great at being in charge of such things. Here’s hoping Emory will play point on this. It sounds as if they will, which sounds safer to me.

The Peace Corps is peacing out:

The Peace Corps said Wednesday that it was temporarily removing 340 volunteers working in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea because of the virus’s spread. Two corps volunteers were placed in isolation and under observation—though they aren’t symptomatic—after coming in contact with an individual who later died of Ebola, a spokeswoman said.

Two U.S. faith-based organizations that are helping to treat Ebola patients in Liberia and have had American staff infected said they were evacuating nonessential personnel due to the spread of the virus, as well as security issues. Another U.S. citizen and a top doctor from Sierra Leone have died.

The developments highlight the risks for foreigners as well as for health staff treating Ebola patients. And they underscore the gravity of the evolving crisis in a poor corner of West Africa where government authorities and international health workers have struggled to bring the deadly outbreak under control.

Pray for Whitebol and Brantly (or send good vibes or whatever your thing is). They’re both brave people trying to serve others in the worst of conditions, and they’re clearly wonderful servants. Christlike, even, as this story shows:

An American doctor being treated for Ebola in Liberia has “taken a slight turn for the worse overnight,” according to Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian Charity based in North Carolina.

An “experimental serum” to treat the virus arrived for the two infected Americans, but there was only enough for one person, according to Samaritan’s Purse.

Dr. Kent Brantly, who noticed his Ebola symptoms and quarantined himself last week, offered the dose to the other infected American, missionary Nancy Writebol.