Emory University expects Ebola patient; Americans with disease worsen

U.S. officials consider evacuating American aid workers stricken with the Ebola virus, the White House says

Emory University Hospital in Atlanta said Thursday it planned to accept a patient who has Ebola "within the next several days," but did not say whether it was one of the American volunteers who has the disease.

Two American volunteers stricken with the Ebola virus that is spreading in West Africa were said to have worsened overnight, as U.S. officials considered options to evacuate them out of West Africa.

Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol were in “stable but grave” condition in Liberia on Thursday morning, according to a news release from the Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse.

In a White House news briefing Thursday, spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionto explore Medevac options for humanitarian aid workers in West Africa who have contracted the disease. While U.S. officials would facilitate the effort, Earnest said, private companies would perform the evacuation.

Earnest said the aim of the operation would be to make sure aid workers had access to “modern medical facilities and technology” and “potentially lifesaving aid.” He called the response consistent with past protocols during outbreaks of SARS and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

In a statement, Emory said its "physicians, nurses and staff are highly trained in the specific and unique protocols and procedures necessary to treat and care for this type of patient. For this specially trained staff, these procedures are practiced on a regular basis throughout the year so we are fully prepared for this type of situation."

A spokeswoman for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed declined to answer questions about the matter. A spokeswoman for Emory University did not immediately respond to an email seeking additional comment.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said Thursday that the decision to evacuate sick aid workers was a “very complicated question,” but that it was up to the aid organizations.

“There is the potential that the actual movement of the patient could do more harm than the benefit from more advanced supportive care outside the country,” Frieden told reporters in a conference call. “We would certainly work with them to facilitate whatever option they pursue.”

In a statement, Samaritan’s Purse said Writebol had received treatment from an “experimental serum” that arrived in Liberia on Wednesday. Samaritan's Purse said Brantly had asked that the serum be given to Writebol.

“There was only enough for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a news release.

Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived the disease, the organization said, as thanks from his family for saving his life.

There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola, according to the CDC and World Health Organization. Patients are often quarantined and given IV drips to combat dehydration.

Frieden said he could not comment on the treatments because he did not have details about them, but emphasized that he believed an effective treatment for Ebola was at least a year away.

“We are not going to treat or vaccinate our way out of these outbreaks,” Frieden said. “We’re going to use the traditional means that work: identification, isolation, contact tracing ... and good, meticulous infection management.”

Samaritan’s Purse and SIM, which together ran the Liberian facility where Brantly and Writebol worked, have said they are evacuating all nonessential personnel from the country and expect the evacuations to be completed this weekend. They emphasized that none of those being evacuated are sick, and that their health will be monitored after they leave the region.

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6:02 p.m.: This story was updated throughout and includes a response from the city of Atlanta.

3:37 p.m. Updated with a few additional details. 

This story was originally posted at 3:14 p.m.