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Atlanta hospital deemed 1 of safest for Ebola care


ATLANTA (AP) -- The Ebola virus has killed more than 700 people in Africa and could have catastrophic consequences if allowed to spread, world health officials say. So why would anyone allow infected Americans to come to Atlanta?

The answer, experts say, is because Emory University Hospital is one of the safest places in the world to treat someone with Ebola. There's virtually no chance the virus can spread from the hospital's super-secure isolation unit.

And another thing, they say: medical workers risking their lives overseas deserve the best treatment they can get.

Dr. Kent Brantly became the first person infected with Ebola to be brought to the United States from Africa. He arrived Saturday at one of the nation's best hospitals. Fellow aid worker Nancy Writebol was expected to arrive in several days.

"I hope that our understandable fear of the unfamiliar does not trump our compassion when ill Americans return to the U.S. for care," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His agency received "nasty emails" and at least 100 calls from people questioning why the sick aid workers should be let into the United States.

Despite the calls and messages directed to the CDC, few of those nearest the hospital Saturday seemed concerned.

"I just think it's a blessing that we can help possibly make the infected person's life a little more tolerable," said Ashley Wheeler, who was shopping just down the street on Saturday. "If I were that person I would want my country to help me the best way they could."

Emory's infectious diseases' unit was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain 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.

Still, Emory won't be taking any chances.

"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."

Ribner also said the patients deserve help.

"They have gone over on a humanitarian mission, they have become infected through medical care and we feel that we have the environment and expertise to safely care for these patients and offer them the maximum opportunity for recovery from these infections," he said Friday.

Amber Brantly was heartened to see her husband climb out of the ambulance that met his plane at Dobbins Air Reserve Base outside Atlanta.

"It was a relief to welcome Kent home today. I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S.," she said in a statement. "I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital."

Inside the unit, patients are sealed off from anyone who doesn't wear protective gear.

"Negative air pressure" means air flows in, but can't escape until filters scrub any germs from patients. All laboratory testing is conducted within the unit, and workers are highly trained in infection control. Glass walls enable staff outside to safely observe patients, and there's a vestibule where workers suit up before entering. Any gear is safely disposed of or decontaminated.

Family members will be kept at a distance for now, the doctors said. The unit "has a plate glass window and communication system, so they'll be as close as 1-2 inches from each other," Ribner said.

Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist who will be treating Brantly and Writebol, gave no word Saturday about their condition. Both have been described as critically ill after treating Ebola patients at a missionary hospital in Liberia, one of four West African countries hit by the largest outbreak of the virus in history.

There is no cure for the virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever that kills as many as 60-80 percent of the people it infects in Africa. There are experimental treatments, but the missionary hospital had only enough for one person, and Brantly insisted that Writebol receive it. His best hope in Africa was a transfusion of blood including antibodies from one of his patients, a 14-year-old boy who survived thanks to the doctor.

There was also only room on the plane for one patient at a time. Writebol will be next, following the same route to Emory in several days.

Join the discussion

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eaglephoenix2 August 03 2014 at 1:07 PM

Both doctors who came down with this I'm sure used and practiced the protocol to minimize exposure in Africa. With two doctors coming down with it, it appears something has changed. It has mutated and become easier to contract. Many question why bring it to America?? Well if there's going to be a chance of germ warfare they know the best way to have the 'latest' is to get it here and play with it some more. And have our own aresenal.

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1 reply
roseyoungstewart eaglephoenix2 August 03 2014 at 6:43 PM

they had to use a toilet, right? They had to partially undress to take their jumpsuits off, right? They did not want to wipe themselves with the gloves that touched other ebola victims so they took their gloves off to wipe themselves, right? The temperature was....112 degrees there, they sweat in all that protective gear/ goggles, head masks covered head to toe, they sweat like a pig in mud, for sure their eyes burn from the salty sweat, it goes into their mouth and nose. no one can wipe their forehead, right? Not hard to figure out now, is it? Keep these workers right where they were.

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rudniski136 August 03 2014 at 7:51 AM

I would hate to be a patient in that hospital right about now.

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2 replies
roseyoungstewart rudniski136 August 03 2014 at 6:45 PM

i would hate to be a nurse assigned to care for that guy.

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justme1234c rudniski136 August 04 2014 at 12:30 AM

I agree!!!

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meanstr August 03 2014 at 9:39 AM

I know one thing for sure I will not be going to Atlanta.,when will we have to pull a SiFi movie thing and use the A Bomb on Atlanta to stop the Ebola .

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Karie August 03 2014 at 12:39 PM

It is about time we found a treatment for Ebola and Atlanta is the best place in the world to do so. It is just a matter of time before this virus finds its way here anyway. I wish them well and I am glad we are taking care of our own.

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3 replies
Mike August 03 2014 at 1:41 PM

They were wise to use a hospital that doesn't matter in a city that doesn't matter in a state that doesn't matter. If it spreads there, who cares?

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darkcloudstonite August 03 2014 at 5:38 PM

" Mass hysteria ensued today when a disorientated patient suffering from the Ebola virus overpowered security guards and escaped from Emory University Hospital...."

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chevymike7 August 03 2014 at 8:23 AM

From what I've seen on the news, the hospital in Africa and it's medical staff were more than competant to deal with this disease there.

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2 replies
gonboyz chevymike7 August 03 2014 at 11:11 AM

and yet, Barry finds it just dandy to let this scourge into the USA!!!! He is NOT acting as a prez of the USA! IS he an American??????????

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1 reply
barbgre1 gonboyz August 03 2014 at 2:59 PM

He doesn't care about the diseases coming across our porous borders either. Not one of his actions as President has benefitted this country.

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roseyoungstewart chevymike7 August 03 2014 at 6:47 PM

you are 100%right. This guy just squawked too loudly thats all.

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tizzmine August 03 2014 at 1:12 PM

SURE......RIGHT........bullshit, bullshit
just like the anthrax leaked at CDC
THIS IS....A SET UP for a PURPOSEFUL PANDEMIC to control population and use marshal law

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1 reply
justme1234c tizzmine August 04 2014 at 12:32 AM


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coopdabomb August 03 2014 at 7:13 AM

You know what they say. "Shi* Happens"

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1 reply
savannahswithgod coopdabomb August 03 2014 at 7:31 AM

Wonder if Chicago, Philly, Detroit are next on the list? See a pattern there?

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spdy65 August 03 2014 at 12:55 PM

So listening to these "officials" who say any hospital should be able to handle this virus makes me wonder then why any hospital in Africa could not handle this virus. We are being lied to. First of all he was not supposed to arrive until Monday and he arrived Saturday. No doubt to avoid attention. And if these doctors have such a great grip on this disease then why is it so out of control? How could a doctor with extensive training become infected if "all precautions are being taken?"
These people are stubborn because of their arrogant attitude that they are in control and this disease has proven them wrong that they are not in control.

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1 reply
roseyoungstewart spdy65 August 03 2014 at 6:49 PM

international date line.

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