Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the American missionaries infected with Ebola while working in Liberia, arrived in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.
The private medical transport plane that brought him from Monrovia touched down at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., around noon. An ambulance flanked by SUVs transported him another 18 miles to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, two people dressed head-to-toe in what looked like hazmat suits got out of the back, one leading the other by gloved hands toward the building.
Brantly, 33, will be treated in a special isolation unit designed to handle cases of infectious, airborne diseases, such as SARS. Ebola can only be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, similar to HIV, making it less dangerous to treat.
Emory physicians have stressed that Brantley poses no public health threat.
Although they hope to provide better care than he was able to get in Liberia, the doctors treating him don’t have many options. Dr. Philip Brachman, an Emory University public health specialist who for many years headed the disease detectives program at the nearby Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said doctors will try any modern therapy that can be done, such as better monitoring of fluids, electrolytes, and vital signs.
“That’s all we can do for such a patient,” he said. “We can make them feel comfortable” and let the body try to beat back the virus. Ebola has no known cure.
Although Brantly was well enough to travel, officials have not released any details about his condition or the progression of the disease. Ebola begins with fever, headache, and weakness and can escalate to vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney and liver problems. In some cases, patients bleed both internally and externally.
Brantly graduated from Abilene Christian University in Texas before going to Indiana University for medical school. He completed his four-year residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas. In October, he began a two-year fellowship with Samaritan’s Purse at a mission hospital outside Monrovia. The Ebola outbreak, the worst in recorded history, began in March, and Brantly took over as head of the hospital’s Ebola clinic.
The second missionary infected with the disease, Nancy Writebol, is scheduled to travel to Atlanta soon. Writebol is a hygienist with Serving in Mission who worked with Brantley. She received an experimental serum earlier this week. Her husband David, who is in Liberia with her, told pastors at their home church in Charlotte, N.C., that she was well enough on Thursday to sit up and communicate with the doctors and nurses treating her.
“We thank God that they are alive and now have access to the best care in the world,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said in a statement. “We are extremely thankful for the help we have received from the State Department, the CDC, theNational Institute of Health, WHO and, of course, Emory Hospital.”