A second American infected with Ebola in Liberia arrived in the U.S. today for treatment in Atlanta, and U.S. officials said they were sending more help to West Africa to fight the outbreak there.
Nancy Writebol, 59, an aid worker, was immediately taken to Emory University Hospital, where Kent Brantly, 33, who came from Liberia on Aug. 2, is already receiving medical care. Unlike Brantly, who walked into the hospital, Writebol was brought in on a stretcher, said Bruce Johnson, the president of SIM USA, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based charity that sponsored Writebol’s work in Liberia.
While Writebol is “very, very weak,” she is showing signs of “continued improvement,” Johnson said at a news conference in Atlanta today.
Writebol and Brantly last week were given doses of an experimental treatment developed by San Diego-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. Writebol, given the option of taking the drug while in Liberia, made the decision on her own, according to Johnson. He said it’s not clear if the treatment, dubbed ZMapp, is the reason Writebol is feeling better.
Her condition before taking the drug wasn’t “dire,” he said, but family and friends were “realistic.”
Johnson cautioned the condition of Ebola patients often changes daily. Writebol was able to stand while boarding a plane back to the U.S., for example, but needed to be carried on a stretcher into the hospital today.
Writebol “did not have direct contact with patients” at the Liberian Ebola center where she and Brantly, a doctor, were infected, Johnson said. She sprayed down health-care workers still in their hazardous materials suits used while caring for Ebola patients, he said.
Johnson said the cost of transporting and caring for Writebol during the trip from Liberia was almost $1 million, and the charity hoped the expense would be covered by its medical evacuation insurance policy.
Also today, the U.S. Agency for International Development said it is sending a disaster response team to West Africa, along with $5 million in funding, to help fight an outbreak that has killed more than 887 people in the region.
The funding will be used to “help trace people who may be infected, as well as provide health clinics and households with hygiene kits, soap, bleach, gloves, masks, and other supplies,” the USAID said in a statement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has said it will send an additional 50 medical staff to West Africa over the next 30 days.
New York testing
In New York, meanwhile, doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital are awaiting test results from the CDC on a man who showed up yesterday in their emergency room with symptoms of the disease after previously being in West Africa.
A nurse sets an information sign about Ebola on the wall of a public health center in Monrovia, Liberia, on July 31, 2014.
While city health officials said it was “unlikely” the man has Ebola, they said a definitive ruling on blood samples sent to the CDC for testing will probably take 24 to 48 hours.
Writebol and Brantly will be kept in special isolation units at Emory and treatment may last two to three weeks, doctors there said last week.
Brantly’s wife, Amber, said in a statement today that her husband was feeling better.
“I have been able to see Kent every day, and he continues to improve,” Amber Brantly said. “I know that Kent is receiving the very best medical treatment available.”
It wasn’t clear today if Brantly and Writebol were continuing to be treated with the Mapp drug. Normally, treatment for Ebola includes keeping a patient properly hydrated, replacing lost blood and using antibiotics to fight opportunistic infections. The hope is that the patient’s immune system will fight off the virus on its own.
Ebola is spread between humans through direct contact with bodily fluids, including blood, urine and saliva.
The outbreak that began in March is largely contained in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The disease, first reported in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, can cause bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose.