Two Americans in the fight of their lives against incurable Ebola will reportedly soon board a plane out of Liberia. U.S. authorities are saying little about where Dr. Kent Brantly and hygienist Nancy Writebol will be taken once lifted out of disease-ravaged West Africa.
However, Atlanta’s Emory University confirmed Thursday plans to house at least one of the victims–both of whom were said to be in ‘grave condition’–once they arrive in the U.S. in a specially outfitted Gulfstream jet.
Emory in collaboration with the CDC has built a special containment unit to house just such a patient in need of and extremely high level of isolation.
According to CNN, the doctor and hygienist–both of whom are missionary workers for the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse charity–were seen taking off in the specially outfitted CDC jet.
Inside the aircraft, the patients will remain in a tent-like structure called an aeromedical biological containment system, which allows officials to move highly contagious patients without fear of exposure to pathogens.
According to WXIA, Emory’s isolation unit is on the ground floor and has three beds with the highest standards in negative pressure air handling, HEPA filtration and exhaust.
‘When this unit was being built, we hoped we’d never have to use the space to treat a serious communicable disease,’ said Emory epidemiologist Bruce Ribner.
However that’s precisely what will soon happen. The modified Gulfstream III took off from Cartersville, Georgia Thursday afternoon for its first-of-its-kind mission to bring an Ebola patient into the United States.
Valiant though the mission is, it’s not nearly the first example of heroism in this continuing saga.
Mere hours before their transport, father-of-two Brantly gave up the single vial of an experimental treatment sent over from the U.S. in order that Writebol–a grandmother and longtime Christian missionary–could receive it instead.
Brantly, from Fort Worth, Texas, ensured Writebol received the experimental drug instead of him after only a small amount arrived in Liberia, the Samaritan’s Purse charity said on Wednesday.
Brantly would receive a transfusion of the blood of a 14-year-old Ebola survivor who personally helped to treat.
Giving blood transfusions from survivors to still suffering Ebola patients is an established, though not nearly proven, treatment for the largely untreatable disease.
The moment CNN reported a plane was leaving the United States to pick up the American volunteers in Liberia suffering from Ebola, Twitter lit up with Americans fuming over the decision.
One self-proclaimed patriot in particular was especially unhappy with the news.
“Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days – now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!” Donald Trump tweeted Thursday evening.
Meanwhile on Thursday, U.S. health officials warned Americans not to travel to the three West African countries hit by an outbreak of Ebola.
The travel advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year.
Announcing Dr Brantly’s gallant decision, Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham said: ‘Yesterday, an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol.’
However, on Thursday charity SIM said in a statement that Mrs Writebol’s condition had worsened, despite the serum.
Mrs Writebol is in stable, but serious condition and is receiving an experimental drug that doctors hope will better address her condition, the charity said.
Her husband, David, is close by but can only visit his wife through a window or dressed in a haz-mat suit.
‘We continue to pray for Nancy’s full and complete recovery,’ said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA.
‘Even though her condition has worsened, we know she is receiving the best possible medical care, and we are thankful that she has access to this experimental drug.
‘We believe in the power of prayer and ask people around the world not only to pray for Nancy and Kent, but also for everyone affected by this terrible virus.’
…I remain hopeful and believing that Kent will be healed from this dreadful disease
On Wednesday, the charity said Dr Brantley’s condition had gone from grave to serious.
However, on Thursday they said he had ‘taken a slight turn for the worse overnight.’
Despite Brantly’s recent turn for the worse, his wife remained confident Thursday that he would pull through.
‘I remain hopeful and believing that Kent will be healed from this dreadful disease,’ she said in a statement Thursday. “He is strong and peaceful and confident in the love of Jesus Christ, which is his sustenance right now.’
She also said that she and her children, who were in Liberia with Brantly before he fell ill, remained perfectly healthy.
Though he missed out on the serum, Dr Brantly did received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy whose life he saved from the deadly virus he has contracted.
Dr Brantly was in West Africa with the missionary group responding to the Ebola outbreak when he was diagnosed last week.
His wife and children returned to the United States before Dr Brantly showed any signs of illness.
Samaritan’s Purse has evacuated all of its non-essential personnel for the Ebola outbreak.
Yesterday, Johnson told MailOnline that within the next few days we will know if Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are likely to survive.
He said that Ebola could turn for the worse within hours and that both the patients may soon begin to show signs of internal bleeding which could be fatal.
Mr Johnson also warned that unless the international community does more to stop what has become the most serious outbreak of Ebola in history then it will spark a ‘tsunami of destruction’ in Africa – and maybe beyond.
Last week Dr Brantly, 33, was identified as the first American to be diagnosed with Ebola, which kills up to 90 per cent of those it infects.
Mrs Writebol, 60, an educator turned missionary from Charlotte, North Carolina, was the second.
The condition update will be agonising for both their families – not least Dr Brantly’s wife Amber who is in the US with their two young children.
Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol were in Liberia with SIM USA and Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian aid charity.
Dr Brantly was treating the sick whilst Mrs Writebol was disinfecting medics as they left isolation wards
.SIM spokesman Palmer Holt said that the coming days are so important because symptoms would start to show that would indicate that the disease had entered its second, more serious phase.
The first stage is characterised by fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, a rash and diarrhea.
The second however is haemorrhagic fever in which patients endure difficulty breathing and swallowing and agonising bleeding inside their body.
Blood pours out of their ears and nose and turns their eyes from white to red. They die an agonising death.
Generally patients who enter the second stage do not survive.
Mr Johnson said that SIM USA had not yet identified how Dr Brantly and Mrs Writebol had become infected but said that they take ‘extreme safety measures’ and follow guidelines from the Centre For Disease Control.
He said: ‘Our hearts just break for them.’
So far more than 600 people have been killed in the outbreak across West Africa that has infected more than 1,200.
Liberia has closed its borders to help stop the disease amid fears that it could spread after a patient suffering from Ebola took a flight to Lagos in Nigeria.
Mr Johnson said: ‘What we have here really is the potential for this to become a tsunami of destruction for the country of Liberia and that why we are calling on the international community to now respond.
‘It’s grown to such proportions that it’s overwhelming Samaritan’s Purse and SIM and it needs others like the US to help.
‘It’s like a wildfire in the Western US. It’s like what happens to a small fire that continues to grow and no-one is trying to put it out.
‘This is preventable but right now SIM is the only care center for Ebola patients in Liberia and that has to change.