Ebola-infected missionaries to get aid in Atlanta

Emory University Hospital in Atlanta announced late Friday that it will treat two patients who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia.

The medical evacuation of Charlotte missionary Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly of Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse won’t be complete until early next week, officials said Friday.

Samaritan’s Purse confirmed Friday the evacuation of Writebol and Brantly is underway, as is the evacuation of 60 nonessential Samaritan’s Purse and SIM (Serving in Mission) staff and dependents in Liberia, the organization said. SIM, a Charlotte-based missionary group, partners with Samaritan’s Purse and sent Writebol and her husband to Liberia.

Officials with Emory, which is near the headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier Friday that they had been told that an Ebola patient would be transferred to its special containment unit in the next several days, but they did not know when the patient would arrive, according to a statement posted to Emory’s website.

Writebol and her husband, David, are members of Calvary Church in Charlotte. Brantly and his family live in Texas.

Writebol, who learned last week that she had contracted Ebola, “is in stable but serious condition and is receiving an experimental drug that doctors hope will better address her condition,” SIM said.

Serum aims to aid missionary

Although nonessential SIM personnel are leaving Liberia, SIM announced, the group is sending another of its doctors to treat Ebola patients at its treatment center in Monrovia.

SIM said it has two doctors caring for Writebol and Brantly. Its Liberian staff “is still engaged in the region,” including its radio station, school and HIV/AIDS public health education group, SIM announced.

Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity that partners with SIM at the hospital compound in Monrovia where the Writebols work, announced Thursday that Brantly “took a slight turn for the worse” and was in “stable but grave condition.”

The charity also said that Brantly, 33, requested that the experimental drug – a serum – that arrived in Liberia on Wednesday be given to Writebol, 59. There was only enough for one person, Samaritan’s Purse said.

Franklin Graham, Samaritan’s Purse president and CEO, said in a statement that “Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care. The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.”

Graham, meanwhile, wrote to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta that Samaritan’s Purse has discovered “significant gaps” in CDC procedures and protocols to follow as the organization’s health care workers and staff in Liberia return to America.

Charity takes action

In the absence of guidance from CDC, Graham wrote, Samaritan’s Purse is taking a conservative approach by requiring all of its personnel to remain on the African continent for 21 days after being in an area with possible exposure to Ebola. The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days, Graham noted.

“This is a grave situation that needs the immediate attention of CDC,” Graham wrote. “Our nation must have procedures and policies to follow for healthcare workers returning from an area of possible Ebola exposure.”

At Samaritan Purse’s request, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, R-N.C., presented Graham’s letter at Friday’s U.S.-Africa Summit breakfast in Washington. Pittenger also sent a copy to the administrator of USAID.

“Rev. Graham just wants to make sure the right procedures are being followed,” Pittenger told the Observer. “Franklin just wants to be on the high side of safety.”

The CDC had no immediate comment on Friday to Graham’s letter.

Staff writers Joe Marusak and Jim Morrill contributed.

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