Atlanta hospital deemed 1 of safest for Ebola care

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...

28 PHOTOS
US Aid workers with Ebola
See Gallery
Atlanta hospital deemed 1 of safest for Ebola care
Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist at Emory Healthcare, speaks with reporters, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014 in Atlanta. Varkey is part of a team of doctors who will treat the two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus. The workers will be treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)
A Nigerian health official wearing a protective suit waits to screen passengers at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Nigerian authorities on Monday confirmed a second case of Ebola in Africa's most populous country, an alarming setback as officials across the region battle to stop the spread of a disease that has killed more than 700 people. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
A Nigerian health official wearing a protective mask waits to screen passengers at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Nigerian authorities on Monday confirmed a second case of Ebola in Africa's most populous country, an alarming setback as officials across the region battle to stop the spread of a disease that has killed more than 700 people. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
A woman prays with others from different religious groups against the spread of the Ebola virus, in Monrovia, Liberia, Saturday Aug. 2, 2014. An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, the head of the World Health Organization warned, as presidents from the affected countries met Friday in Guinea's capital. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
Women from different religious groups pray against the spread of the Ebola virus, in Monrovia, Liberia, Saturday Aug. 2, 2014. An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, the head of the World Health Organization warned as presidents from the affected countries met Friday in Guinea's capital. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
A man holds a newspaper featuring a front page story on the death of Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer (pictured with his wife Decontee) who died of the Ebloa virus in Lagos on July 30, 2014. Nigeria is on alert against the possible spread of Ebola after the first confirmed death from the virus in Lagos, Africa's biggest city and the country's financial capital. The victim, who worked for the Liberian government, collapsed at Lagos international airport after arriving on a flight from Monrovia via the Togolese capital Lome, according to the Nigerian government. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned that the crisis gripping Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would only get worse and could not rule out it spreading to other countries. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man reads a newspaper with a headline announcing government efforts to screen for Ebola at a newsstand in Lagos on July 27, 2014. Nigeria was on alert against the possible spread of Ebola on July 27, a day after the first confirmed death from the virus in Lagos, Africa's biggest city and the country's financial capital. The health ministry said on July 25 that a 40-year-old Liberian man died at a private hospital in Lagos from the disease, which has now killed more than 650 people in four west African countries since January. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
Director of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, Professor Abdulsalam Nasidi, speaks during a briefing about Ebola outbreak in Lagos on July 28, 2014. Nigeria was on alert against the possible spread of Ebola on Saturday, a day after the first confirmed death from the virus in Lagos, Africa's biggest city and the country's financial capital. The health ministry said Friday that a 40-year-old Liberian man died at a private hospital in Lagos from the disease, which has now killed more than 650 people in four west African countries since January -- the deadliest outbreak in history. AFP PHOTO/PIUS UTOMI EKPEI (Photo credit should read PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on July 24, 2014 shows staff of the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse putting on protective gear in the ELWA hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia. An American doctor battling West Africa's Ebola epidemic has himself fallen sick with the disease in Liberia, Samaritan's Purse said on July 27. AFP PHOTO / ZOOM DOSSO (Photo credit should read ZOOM DOSSO/AFP/Getty Images)
A 10-year-old boy receives treatment after being taken out of quarantine following his mother's death caused by the ebola virus, in the Christian charity Samaritan's Purse Ebola treatment center, at the ELWA hospital in the Liberian capital Monrovia, on July 24, 2014. A US doctor battling West Africa's Ebola epidemic has himself fallen sick with the disease in Liberia, Samaritan's Purse said on July 27. AFP PHOTO / ZOOM DOSSO (Photo credit should read ZOOM DOSSO/AFP/Getty Images)
A close up of newspaper front pages focusing on the Ebola outbreak, including a newspaper, left, reading 'Burn all bodies' in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, July 31, 2014. The worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 deaths in West Africa as the World Health Organization on Thursday announced dozens of new fatalities. (AP Photo/Jonathan Paye-Layleh)
Graphic provides an update on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm;
People working for a petroleum company take part in an Ebola awareness campaign to try and prevent the deadly Ebola virus spreading in the city of Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Aug. 4, 2014. Health authorities in Liberia ordered that all those who die from Ebola be cremated after communities opposed having the bodies buried nearby. Over the weekend, health authorities in the West African country encountered resistance while trying to bury 22 bodies in Johnsonville, outside the capital Monrovia. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)
An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT
In this 2014 photo provided by the Samaritan's Purse aid organization, Dr. Kent Brantly, left, treats an Ebola patient at the Samaritan's Purse Ebola Case Management Center in Monrovia, Liberia. On Saturday, July 26, 2014, the North Carolina-based aid organization said Brantly tested positive for the disease and was being treated at a hospital in Monrovia. (AP Photo/Samaritan's Purse)
Television news crews record a press conference at Emory University Hospital regarding the proposed treatment of two American aid workers who contracted Ebola in Africa at an isolated unit at the hospital to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday he had no personal safety concerns over treating the patients of the dangerous disease. Hospital officials did not identify the patients, citing confidentiality rules. They were previously identified as Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. Ribner said one of the patients was expected to arrive Monday, while a second was expected several days later. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Dr. David Mcray, left, listens to a question during a news conference with Dr. Jason Brewington, center, and Dr. Darrin D'Agostino about fellow doctor Kent Brantly Monday, July 28, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Brantly is one of two American aid workers that have tested positive for the Ebola virus while working to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease at a hospital in Liberia. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dr. David Mcray speaks about his friend and colleague Dr. Kent Brantly during a news conference Monday, July 28, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Brantly is one of two American aid workers that have tested positive for the Ebola virus while working to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease at a hospital in Liberia. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Dr. David Mcray reads a recent message sent to him by his friend and colleague Dr. Kent Brantly during a news conference Monday, July 28, 2014, in Fort Worth, Texas. Brantly is one of two American aid workers that have tested positive for the Ebola virus while working to combat an outbreak of the deadly disease at a hospital in Liberia. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In this undated photo released by the Center for Disease Control, a Aeromedical Biological Containment System which looks like a sealed isolation tent for Ebola air transportation is shown. On Thursday afternoon July 31, 2014, officials at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital said they expected one of the Americans to be transferred there "within the next several days." The hospital declined to identify which aid worker, citing privacy laws. (AP Photo/Center for Disease Control)
A private plane arrives at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta., Ga., Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Officials at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta expect an American who is infected with the Ebola virus to be transported for treatment today. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An ambulance is shown en route to Emory University Hospital after departing from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta., Ga., Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Officials at Emory in Atlanta expect an American who is infected with the Ebola virus to be transported for treatment today. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
An ambulance arrives at Emory University Hospital transporting an American that was infected with the Ebola virus, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. A specially outfitted plane carrying Dr. Kent Brantly from West Africa arrived at a military base in Georgia. Brantly was taken to the Atlanta hospital. Another American with Ebola is expected to join him at the hospital in a few days. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Hospital workers pass police officers guarding an entrance to Emory University Hospital after an ambulance arrived transporting an American that was infected with the Ebola virus, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. A specially outfitted plane carrying Dr. Kent Brantly from West Africa arrived at a military base in Georgia. Brantly was taken to the Atlanta hospital. Another American with Ebola is expected to join him at the hospital in a few days. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A police officer clears an entrance to Emory University Hospital after ambulance arrived transporting an American that was infected with the Ebola virus, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. A specially outfitted plane carrying Dr. Kent Brantly from West Africa arrived at a military base in Georgia. Brantly was taken to the Atlanta hospital. Another American with Ebola is expected to join him at the hospital in a few days. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
This photo provided by Jeremy Writebol show his parents, David and Nancy Writebol, who are Christian missionaries in Liberia. Nancy Writebol is one of two Americans working for a missionary group in Liberia that have been diagnosed with Ebola. Plans are underway to bring back the two Americans from Africa for treatment. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jeremy Writebol)
This Oct. 7, 2013 photo provided by Jeremy Writebol show his mother, Nancy Writebol, with children in Liberia. Writebol is one of two Americans working for a missionary group in Liberia that have been diagnosed with Ebola. Plans are underway to bring back the two Americans from Africa for treatment. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jeremy Writebol)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


By TAMER ZIARA AND IBRAHIM BARZAK

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.

Read Full Story

People are Reading