An American patient fighting against the deadly Ebola virus arrived in Atlanta from Africa. Dr. Kent Brantly, a Fort Worth, Texas, physician arrived on Saturday.
John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where Brantly did his residency released a statement Saturday:
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Emory University Hospital confirmed on Friday afternoon it was preparing to receive and treat two patients infected with Ebola in its isolation unit. The second patient is expected to arrive a few days later.
Two Americans involved in the fight against the disease in Liberia, Brantly who works for the evangelical relief organization Samaritan's Purse, and Nancy Writebol, a nurse's assistant with an affiliated group, Serving in Mission, or SIM, have contracted the deadly virus.
"The reason we are bringing these patients back to our facility is because we feel they deserve to have the highest level of care offered for their treatment." said Dr. Bruce S. Ribner, Director of Infectious Diseases at Emory Healthcare."They have gone over on a humanitarian mission. They’ve 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."
The evacuation is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Due to privacy concerns, the state department would not confirm if the patients are Brantly and Writebol.
Emory has a specialized isolation unit which was built in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients with certain infectious diseases. It has a unique infrastructure and special equipment to provide a high level of isolation. The entire unit is separate from other patient areas. It has doctors and nurses who are qualified to work in the unit and are trained to deal with highly infectious disease.
"We are one of only four institutions in the United States capable of handling patients of this nature. We have a special containment unit which has been developed with the assistance of the subject experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," said Dr. Ribner.
The State Department said in a news release Friday morning that the evacuations will "will take place over the coming days and that "upon arriving in the United States, the patients will be taken to medical facilities with appropriate isolation and treatment capabilities."
While the State Department officials aren't confirming who they are evacuating, the humanitarian organizations Brantly and Writebol work for are saying medical evacuation efforts are underway for both people and that they should be completed by early next week.
"We are so heartened that Nancy is in stable condition and that plans are underway to bring her back to the U.S.," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. "We are grateful for the help and support of the U.S. State Department in this endeavor. As believers in the power of prayer, we covet the prayers of people around the world, not only for Nancy and Kent, but also for all those fighting this brutal virus."
Samaritan's Purse added Friday that the evacuation of 60 nonessential staff in Liberia has already begun and that they are all healthy and expected to return to the U.S. by the end of the weekend. SIM is also taking steps to return nonessential personnel to the U.S.
Meanwhile, the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, said "this outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives, but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries. As I said before, this meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response."
Chan added that the unprecedented outbreak of the most lethal strain of Ebola is the largest ever in the four-decade history of the disease and has, so far, sickened 1,323 and killed 729 in four countries.
Air Ambulance Departs Thursday for Africa.
NBC 5 tracked the departure of an air ambulance taking off from Cartersville, Georgia, not far from the CDC and Emory University Hospital, at about 4 p.m. Thursday.
The air ambulance is owned by a company that works with the CDC. Pictures provided by the CDC show what the medical evacuation aircraft looks like. It contains medical tents that are used to isolate patients from medical staff.
The isolation and security measures are similar to those in place inside the units at Emory University Hospital, according to Dr. Seema Yasmin, medical expert for The Dallas Morning News and a former CDC disease investigator.
"The way that these two patients would be transported on the plane, and any other transport facilities, is done in a way that prevents them from passing the virus to anyone else," said Yasmin.
Emory University Hospital sent to its staff the following memo Thursday:
"We have a highly specialized, isolated unit in the hospital that was set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases. This unit is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation. In fact, Emory University Hospital is one of just four facilities in the entire country with such a specialized unit."
According to the CDC, the chance of the virus traveling undetected to the United States is extremely low. In the rare instance it did, the CDC said the country is well-equipped to manage and treat it so that there would not be an outbreak.
It's extremely difficult to get the virus, according to doctors. Ebola is not airborne and is instead transmitted by direct contact with bodily fluids, such a vomit, feces or blood of infected persons, living or dead.
It is also important to note that a person with Ebola is only contagious when symptoms are present, according to Yasmin.
Fort Worth Church Asks for Prayers for Brantly
At the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, they are asking for prayers for Dr. Brantly.
Kent Smith, one of the church elders, said that Brantly has always put others first, so Smith was not surprised to hear that when there was only enough experimental serum for one of the two Americans fighting Ebola, Brantly asked that it was given to Writebol.
"I have had a heavy heart, as I know everyone here at our church and probably all across the world world, just to imagine what he is having to go through. But it's certainly encouraging to think he is going to come back here and have access to care he might not have had in Liberia," Smith said.
NBC 5's Scott Gordon and Julie Fine contributed to this report.