The World Health Organization updated the total of suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease to 1,440 (including 953 confirmed cases) and 826 deaths, according to an Aug. 3 update on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Meanwhile, Kent Brantly, MD, the American doctor who contracted the Ebola virus in Africa, arrived in Atlanta Aug. 2, marking the first time anyone infected with the disease is believed to have been brought into the country for treatment. He reportedly was able to walk, with some assistance, into the hospital wearing a biocontainment suit. Brantly, 33, was transported to Emory University Hospital, where he is receiving treatment.
The hospital has a specially built isolation unit, set up in collaboration with the CDC, that is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation, according to an Emory University Hospital statement. It is one of only four such facilities in the country.
The hospitals nurses, physicians and staff are highly trained to care for patients with infectious disease. 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, according to the statement.
A second American patient, Nancy Writebol, is expected to arrive at Emory in the next few days, the hospital has said. The two Americans worked for North Carolina-based Samaritans Purse and U.S.-based SIM at a Liberian hospital that treated Ebola patients.
Brantly, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Writebol, of Charlotte, N.C., were caring for Ebola patients in Liberia before contracting the deadly virus.
Ebola is a severe acute viral illness that can have a case fatality rate of up to 90%. No vaccine is available, nor is there any specific treatment. It is characterized by sudden onset of fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, nausea and sore throat. These symptoms can be followed by vomiting, diarrhea, impaired kidney and liver function and, in some cases, both internal and external bleeding, according to WHO. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care.
Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats and other wild animals, according to WHO. Once a person comes into contact with an animal that has Ebola, it can spread within the community from human to human. Infection occurs from direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, or other bodily fluids or secretions (stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected people. Infection also can occur if broken skin or mucous membranes of a healthy person come into contact with environments that have become contaminated with an Ebola patients infectious fluids such as soiled clothing, bed linen or used needles, according to WHO.
Direct contact with the body of a deceased person who had Ebola can also play a role in the transmission of the disease.
Infected patients must be closely monitored, and laboratory tests must confirm the virus is no longer circulating in their systems before they return home. Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to seven weeks after recovery, according to WHO.