Dr. Kent Brantly shows signs of improvement, and he received a dose of experimental serum before leaving Africa for Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, where he is being treated for the often deadly Ebola virus, authorities said Sunday.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Fox News Sunday that Brantly, a former resident at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, “appears to be improving.”
Samaritan’s Purse, the organization Brantly was serving as a medical missionary for in West Africa, confirmed that Brantly’s condition is improving and said in a statement Sunday evening that “Kent was able to receive a dose of the experimental serum prior to leaving Liberia.”
Emory officials have not commented on the condition of Brantly, a husband and the father of two children, ages 3 and 5.
Brantly’s colleague Nancy Writebol, who is also stricken with the Ebola virus, is expected to be flown from Liberia to Atlanta on Tuesday for treatment at Emory’s infectious disease unit. Brantly, 33, arrived in Atlanta on Saturday.
His wife, Amber Brantly, said in a statement posted on Samaritan’s Purse website that she saw her husband Sunday.
“Our family is rejoicing over Kent’s safe arrival, and we are confident that he is receiving the very best care,” Amber Brantly said. “We are very grateful to the staff at Emory University Hospital, who have been so nice and welcoming to us. I was able to see Kent today. He is in good spirits. He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol’s safe return and full recovery.”
No threat to public in U.S.
Top American public health officials continue to emphasize that treating Brantly and Writebol in the U.S. poses no risks to the public as West Africa grapples with its worst Ebola outbreak on record.
“The plain truth is that we can stop Ebola,” Frieden said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “We know how to control it: hospital infection control and stopping it at the source in Africa.”
Brantly and Writebol served on the same medical mission team that was treating Ebola patients in Liberia.
The outbreak, which is also spreading in Guinea and Sierra Leone, has infected more than 1,300 people in West Africa, killing at least 729.
Liberian officials said a medical evacuation plane will take Writebol to the United States early Tuesday.
Brantly arrived Saturday under the same protocol, flying from West Africa to Dobbins Air Reserve base outside Atlanta in a small plane equipped to contain infectious diseases. A small police escort followed his ambulance to the hospital, where he emerged dressed head to toe in white protective clothing and walked into the hospital on his own power.
An American mission official has said Brantly was treating victims of the outbreak at a hospital compound near Monrovia, the Liberian capital, when he became infected. They said Writebol served as a hygienist whose role included decontaminating those entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area at that hospital.
Prayer, donations for Brantly
In Fort Worth, where Brantly attended Southside Church of Christ while working at JPS Hospital, members of the church gathered Sunday and prayed for him, Writebol and the people of West Africa.
More than 30 members of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas-Fort Worth attended the Sunday morning service to offer support and appreciation for Brantly’s work in West Africa, church elder Kent Smith said.
Southside, on Hemphill Street south of the Medical District, also collected more than $20,000 for Brantly’s family and for Samaritan’s Purse.
Some members plan to turn their porch lights on from 8 to 11 p.m. this week as a reminder to pray for Brantly, Smith added.
“We will continue to pray for Dr. Brantly, for the comfort and peace for his family and for all those affected,” Smith said. “We pray to ask God to strengthen the faith of our church members and not let it waiver in these hard times.”
Taking no chances
There is no cure for the Ebola virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever that kills at least 60 percent of the people it infects in Africa. It is spread by close contact with body fluids including blood, meaning that it is not spread as easily as airborne influenza or the common cold.
That means any modern hospital using standard infection-control measures should be able to handle it. American doctors say the virus could be curtailed in Africa by a better-functioning healthcare system.
The Emory hospital’s infectious disease unit is one of about four in the country equipped to test and treat people exposed to dangerous viruses. Patients are quarantined, sealed off from anyone who is not wearing protective gear. Lab tests are conducted inside the unit, ensuring that viruses don’t leave the quarantined area.
In 2005, it handled patients with SARS, which unlike Ebola can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The hospital won’t be taking any chances.
“Nothing comes out of this unit until it is noninfectious,” said Dr. Bruce Ribner, who will be treating the patients. “… We do not believe that any healthcare worker, any other patient or any visitor to our facility is in any way at risk of acquiring this infection.”
Family members can see and communicate with patients only through barriers.