One of two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus appears to be "improving" at an isolated hospital ward in Georgia where he arrived over the weekend, according to remarks by the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday.
Kent Brantly, 33, who was working for North Carolina-based Christian charity Samaritan's Purse as a medical missionary at an Ebola treatment center in Liberia, was the first-ever patient infected with the deadly disease to land on American soil.
Arriving in Atlanta after traveling on a medical evacuation plane with a special containment tent, he surprised health workers and onlookers by walking himself into Emory University Hospital, a Samaritan's Purse spokesperson told VICE News.
"It's encouraging that he seems to be improving — that's really important — and we're hoping he'll continue to improve," CDC Director Tom Frieden said on CBS's Face the Nation.
No official statement about Brantly's condition has been issued.
Brantly will soon be joined by his colleague, Nancy Writebol, 59, who is due to arrive in a couple of days to receive the same specialized care.
US medical officials believe that flying Brantly and Writebol separately into the country poses no risk for the greater public, and that both will receive the best care available.
Frieden added that it was unlikely that Brantly had spread the disease to his wife and children, who had already left Liberia by the time he started exhibiting symptoms.
"I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the US," Amber Brantly said of her husband in a statement on Saturday. "I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital."
A spokesman for the CDC told VICE News that while there is no cure of Ebola, which can kill up to 90 percent of those it infects, medics will work to treat the symptoms — which typically include fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and lack of appetite — to increase the chance of survival.
"The progression of the virus is what kills you," CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes said. "The standard treatment is still limited to support or therapy such as balancing patients' fluids and electrolytes, maintaining oxygen status and blood pressure, and treating them for any complicating infections."
The two Americans will be housed in specialized isolation units with glass windows and intercoms, through which to interact with family and friends. The precautions will prevent further infection of the virus, which is transmitted by direct contact with blood, body fluids, and tissues of people or animals infected.
Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin to appear, Haynes said, adding that the incubation period for the virus can be anywhere between 2 to 21 days after exposure, with 10 days being most common.
"We have a specially designed unit, which is highly contained. We have highly trained personnel who know how to safely enter the room of a patient who requires this form of isolation," Bruce Ribner, an infectious disease specialist at Emory, told Reuters on Friday.
The current Ebola epidemic, the largest ever in history, has gripped three countries in Western Africa, where it has already infected some 1,400 people and killed 826 people, according to the World Health Organization.
On Thursday, Frieden issued the CDC's highest warning against traveling to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, urging US citizens not to travel to those countries.
Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields
Photo via Wikimedia Commons