The first Ebola victim to be brought the the United States from Africa was safely escorted into a specialized isolation unit at one of the nation’s top hospitals on Saturday.
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 zero risk as Emory University Hospital treats a critically ill missionary doctor and a charity worker who were infected in Liberia.
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 Dr. Tom Frieden told The Associated Press 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 and Nancy Writebol, who will arrive in several days, will be treated in Emory’s isolation unit for infectious diseases, created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC, just up the hill. 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, experts at the hospital handled patients with SARS. Unlike Ebola, the disease can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Ebola is believed to be spread through contact with bodily fluids and blood from the person infected by the disease.
“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.”
Brantly was flown to Atlanta’s Dobbins Air Reserve base in a small plane equipped to contain infectious diseases. A small police escort followed his ambulance to the hospital where he climbed out fully covered in white protective clothing.
Inside the unit, patients are sealed off from anyone who doesn’t wear protective gear. The unit also has a plate glass window and communication system.
There is no proven cure for the virus. It kills an estimated 60 percent to 80 percent of the people it infects, but American doctors in Africa say the mortality rate would be much lower in a functioning health care system.
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