A North Carolina missionary who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia was transported to the United States Tuesday to begin treatment, just days after Dr. Kent Brantly was moved in a similar manner.
Nancy Writebol, who is affiliated with the North Carolina-based Christian relief groups Samaritan’s Purse and SIM, arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in a private jet converted into an “air ambulance.” Writebol departed from Monrovia, Liberia, riding inside of an Aeromedical Biological Containment System installed inside a modified Gulf Stream jet.
Writebol was then transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta to be quarantined in a special isolation unit constructed at Emory, which was set up in tandem with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Writebol and Brantly are the first confirmed Ebola patients to be treated on U.S. soil, and both were said to have received an experimental dose of a drug called ZMapp, while still in West Africa.
The ambulance carrying the missionary Nancy Writebol, who contracted Ebola in Africa, has arrived at Emory: pic.twitter.com/7HYisfb5v7
— Alan Blinder (@alanblinder) August 5, 2014
Three frozen vials of ZMapp were flown to Liberia last week, but the dose was only enough for one person. Brantly initially refused the medication so it could be administered to Writebol, and opted for a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old patient who survived a bout with Ebola, but his condition continued to deteriorate. The doctor said he felt like he was dying at one point while gasping for air, and was given a dose of ZMapp.
Within hours, Brantly’s breathing improved, and a rash he developed disappeared. He was able to take a shower on his own the following day, and was seen walking into Emory University Hospital when he arrived in Atlanta. Writebol required a stretcher when she arrived at the hospital.
Ebola Dr. Brantly's wife, Amber: "I have been able to see Kent every day, and he continues to improve." pic.twitter.com/my4GIhto9D
— K-LOVE News (@KLOVEnews) August 5, 2014
The transport of Ebola-infected patients into the country has been controversial, as some have feared it might lead to a domestic outbreak. Though, Emory said in a statement, “Emory University Hospital physicians, nurses and staff are highly trained in the specific and unique protocols and procedures necessary to treat and care for this type of patient. The standard, rigorous infection control procedures used at Emory protect the patient, Emory health care workers and the general public.”
Here is a clip describing precautions taken while medevacing an Ebola patient:
While the ZMapp medication has shown promise, Emory doctor Bruce S. Ribner points out that supportive care is likely the key component in combating Ebola. “We depend on the body’s defenses to control the virus. We just have to keep the patient alive long enough in order for the body to control this infection.”
Image via YouTube