Ebola Patient Dr Kent Brantly Arrives in U.S., May Be Improving

SUNDAY, Aug. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Dr Kent Brantly, one of two Americans stricken with the Ebola virus in the West Africa nation of Liberia, was delivered Saturday morning to an Atlanta hospital for treatment and is showing signs of improvement, experts say.

Brantly "seems to be improved from the reports we got earlier," Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

After transport from Liberia on a specially outfitted plane Brantly, 33, climbed out of an ambulance with the aid of another person and then walked the short distance to the entrance of Emory University Hospital. Both Brantly and the person who helped him were wearing special biocontainment suits and similar protective gear, NBC News reported.

Experts said that the fact that Brantly could walk on his own was an encouraging sign.

Brantly's wife Amber, as well as his mother and father, had traveled to the hospital to meet him but his two small children did not make the trip.

The second patient, Dr Nancy Writebol, 59, will also be flown to Atlanta for treatment at the same medical center. According to SIM (Serving In Mission), the aid agency Writebol was working for in Liberia, she will probably arrive in the U.S. early this week. She will be transported in the same specially outfitted plane that Brantly that arrived in.

Both Brantly and Writebol had been working at clinics in Liberia, helping victims of an Ebola outbreak that the World Health Organization says has already killed at least 729 people. Brantly is working with aid agency Samaritan's Purse. The group issued a statement last week describing both patients as being in "serious condition."

The unit at Emory that will care for Brantly and Writebol has been designed for just these types of cases, however. In a statement, Emory said that the unit "has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation." Staff who work in the unit are specifically trained and practiced in treating "this type of patient," the hospital said.

The evacuation of the two patients from West Africa had been facilitated by the U.S. State Department in cooperation with the CDC. "Every precaution is being taken to move the patients safely and securely, to provide critical care en route on a non-commercial aircraft, and to maintain strict isolation upon arrival in the United States," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Friday.

There's no cure or vaccine for Ebola, which wreaks life-threatening havoc on the body by attacking multiple organ systems simultaneously.

Instead, doctors must fall back on the basics of "good, meticulous intensive care," supporting the patient and targeting treatment toward organs that are under attack, explained Dr. Lee Norman, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Hospital and an expert on the disease.

"You treat the things that are failing," Norman said. "If a person is dehydrated, you treat them with IV fluid support. If a person has respiratory failure, you put them on a ventilator."

According to Dr Bruce Hirsch, an infectious diseases specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, NY, Ebola's ravages are such that even young, healthy patient -- who usually can fight off most serious illnesses -- have a high death rate. Pumping fluids into patients remains the best front-line treatment for Ebola, to limit the damage caused by inflammation, he said.

In related news, CNN reports that a retired American doctor who had been helping Ebola patients in Monrovia returned to the United States last week and placed himself in voluntary quarantine in his hometown of Morristown, Tenn.

Dr Alan Jamison, 69, said he has had no symptoms of Ebola and his last encounter with an Ebola patient was July 19. He plans to place himself in isolation in his home for 21 days, the incubation period for the disease (meaning the time elapsed between infection and any onset of symptoms).

"I'm feeling normal and doing the typical things a person would do in their home," he told CNN. " I have my family who can bring me food if I need anything, and they would not enter the house. They can leave items outside the home."

More information

For more on the Ebola virus, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Lee Norman, M.D., chief medical officer, University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City; Bruce Hirsch, M.D., infectious diseases specialist, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; July 31, 2014, news conference and news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; NBC News; Aug 1, 2014, news release, SIM, Associated Press, CNN