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US doctor with Ebola arrives in Atlanta DC takes virus outbreak in Africa seriously: Obama

ATLANTA, Aug 2, (Agencies): An American doctor infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. A private plane outfitted with a special, portable tent designed for transporting patients with highly infectious diseases arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, spokesman Lt Col James Wilson confirmed. Samaritan’s Purse missionary group tells The Associated Press that Dr Kent Brantly is the patient. An ambulance from Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital left the base shortly after the jet landed and drove the 15 miles or so toward Emory University Hospital where Brantly and another aid worker will be treated. Later, one person in white protective clothing from head to toe climbed down from the back of the ambulance and a second person in the same type of hazmat-looking suit appeared to take his gloved hands and guide him toward a building at Emory.

US officials are confident the patients can be treated without putting the public in any danger. The ambulance with red markings was flanked by a few SUVs and police car for the short trip to the hospital along a wide-open Interstate with no traffic. The second patient, Nancy Writebol, will follow a few days later, the hospital has said. Dr Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist at Emory who will be involved in Brantly’s care, said the hospital’s isolation unit is well-equipped to handle patients with diseases that are even more infectious than Ebola. The unit was used for treating at least one SARS patient in 2005. Unlike Ebola, SARS — like the flu — is an airborne virus and can spread easily when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Health experts say a specialized isolation unit is not needed for treating an Ebola patient. Standard rigorous infection control measures should work at any hospital. “Ebola is only transmitted through blood and bodily fluids,” he said. “Unlike the flu, like influenza, which we deal with every winter, Ebola cannot be spread thorugh the air.” There is no known cure for Ebola, which 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. The two seriously Americans worked at a hospital in Liberia, one of the three West Africa countries hit by the largest Ebola outbreak in history. The Emory hospital unit is located just down a hill from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is one of about four such units around the country for testing and treating people infected with dangerous, infectious germs.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama says he is taking the Ebola outbreak in Africa seriously. He says the United States is taking precautions for next week’s US-African summit in the nation’s capital. He says the federal Centers for Disease Control is working with international health organizations to provide assistance to the affected countries. He says this outbreak is more aggressive than in the past. Administration officials said the leaders of Liberia and Sierra Leone had canceled their trip to Washington for the gathering of African leaders. US health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the Ebola virus has killed more than 700 people this year.

The current outbreak is the largest since the disease first emerged in Africa nearly 40 years ago. The worst Ebola outbreak in history is heaping new pressure on US regulators to speed the development of treatments for the deadly virus, which has killed more than 700 people since February. The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday said in an emailed statement the agency “stands ready” to work with companies and investigators working with patients “in dire need of treatment.” Asenior official within FDA told Reuters the agency would consider proposals for providing treatments under special emergency new drug applications, if the benefits of the treatment outweighed the potential safety risks.

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