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Sunday 21 September 2014

Ebola doctor walks into US hospital

Published 02/08/2014 | 02:49

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An American who was infected with the Ebola virus has been transported by ambulance to an Atlanta hospital
Ebola patient Nancy Writebol and her husband David, who are Christian missionaries in Liberia (AP/Courtesy Jeremy Writebol)
The isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to infectious diseases (AP/Emory University)

An American doctor infected with the Ebola virus in Africa was able to walk from an ambulance into an Atlanta hospital tonight after he arrived in the US on a specially-equipped plane.

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It marks the first time anyone infected with Ebola, considered one of the world's deadliest diseases, is believed to have been brought into the country for treatment.

A second American aid worker infected with the virus was expected to arrive within a couple days at Emory University, which has one of the most sophisticated isolation rooms in the country.

US officials are confident the patients can be treated without putting the public in danger.

The private plane outfitted with a special, portable tent designed for transporting patients with highly-infectious diseases arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, spokesman Lt Col James Wilson confirmed.

Dr Kent Brantly, who was infected while treating Ebola patients in Liberia for the US-based aid group Samaritan's Purse, was taken from the plane into a waiting ambulance.

The ambulance from Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital left the base in Marietta, Georgia, and drove, without lights or sirens, the 15 miles or so toward Emory University Hospital where Mr Brantly and the other aid worker will be treated.

The ambulance was flanked by a few SUVs and a police car for the short trip to the hospital along a wide-open interstate with little to no traffic.

Once at the hospital, a person in white protective clothing from head to toe climbed down from the back of the ambulance.

Another person in the same type of hazmat-looking suit took the man's gloved hands and guided him toward an Emory building.

Mr Brantly's wife, Amber, said her husband was able to walk into the hospital.

"It was a relief to welcome Kent home today," she said in a statement.

"I spoke with him and he is glad to be back in the US. I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital."

The second patient, Nancy Writebol, will be brought from Africa soon, the hospital has said.

The two seriously-ill Americans worked for North Carolina-based Samaritan's Purse and US-based SIM at a Liberian hospital that treated Ebola patients.

Liberia is one of the three west Africa countries hit by the largest Ebola outbreak in history.

Dr Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist at Emory who will be involved in Mr Brantly's care, said the hospital's isolation unit is well-equipped to handle patients with diseases that are even more infectious than Ebola.

The hospital is located just down a hill from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Its special unit was used for treating at least one SARS patient in 2005.

Unlike Ebola, SARS is an airborne virus and can spread easily when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Health experts say a specialised isolation unit is not needed for treating an Ebola patient and standard rigorous infection control measures should work at any hospital.

"Ebola is only transmitted through blood and bodily fluids," Dr Varkey said.

"Unlike the flu, which we deal with every winter, Ebola cannot be spread through the air."

Press Association

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