The most deadly outbreak of Ebola in the world is happening right now. As of July 31, 2014, according to Vox via data collected by the World Health Organization, the virus has infected approximately 1,300 people since this past winter; approximately 700 of those people have died as a result of their infections.
The outbreak has, so far, affected people in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria. In large part, the virus appears to be staying within the confines of those countries’ borders, but this past Sunday, the New York Times reported that the first of two American workers have arrived stateside for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Dr. Kent Brantly is that first worker. He was recently in West Africa working for the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse and contracted the disease during his time in Liberia. This Sunday, an emergency jet flew him from Liberia and landed at Dobbins Air Reserve base around 11 a.m. From there, an ambulance took him to Emory University Hospital which was reportedly chosen because it contains a special unit specifically reserved for patients with infectious diseases.
The specific unit that now contains Dr. Brantly was created with the help of the Center for Disease Control. The C.D.C headquarters is located near the hospital.
The other Samaritan’s Purse worker is named Nancy Writebol. The Times expects her to arrive in the U.S. within the next several days for treatment at the same facility.
Both the Times and The Verge note that social media has been alight with concern over the virus being voluntarily brought into the country. The Verge, specifically, noted a comment on Twitter from Donald J. Trump who insisted that the plague would start and spread within U.S. borders. In response, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, tweeted that he could not be concerned with Trump’s “scientific illiteracy” and would soon be flying into Atlanta.
Dr. Bruce S. Ribner, an infectious disease specialist at Emory who will be working with the two patients, said he and other hospital officials “feel they deserve to have the highest level of care offered for their treatment.” He said he hoped that concern would not overrule compassion.
The treatment team for Brantly and Writebol, the Times says, will include “four infectious disease doctors, a rotating cast of nurses and, as needed, subspecialists.” They will be working to keep the patients in good health until their natural defenses can rid them of the virus.
Vox reports that there is no treatment for Ebola other than treatment of symptoms. For instance, doctors may provide IV fluids that will combat dehydration.
Ribner dismissed the rising concerns that entry of the two individuals into the U.S. would cause an outbreak here. “We have taken every precaution that we know and that our colleagues at the C.D.C. know to ensure that there is no spread of this virus pathogen,” he told the Times.
Update: The USA Today indicated Tuesday morning that Writebol had landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base on the same plane that transported Brantly so she could be taken to Emory University Hospital.
The story updated the number of recorded cases from the latest outbreak as well. According to the World Health Organization, as of Aug. 1 the total stands at 1,603 infected. The total number of deaths is 887.
Image courtesy of Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons