Ambulance carrying first American Ebola victim arrives at Emory

ATLANTA — American Ebola patient Dr. Kent Brantly has arrived safely at Emory University Hospital.

NewsChopper2 was over the hospital as Brantly walked out of the back of the ambulance and into the hospital.

Brantly was taken to the hospital by ambulance from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County.

"It was a relief to welcome Kent home today. I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the US," said Brantly's wife Amber in a statement Saturday. "I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital. Please continue praying for Kent and Nancy--and please continue praying for the people of Liberia and those who continue to serve them there."

The plane carrying Brantly touched down just after 11 a.m. Saturday. The plane flew Brantly from Liberia to Atlanta. Officials said Brantly and American aide worker Nancy Writebol contracted the disease in the West African nation while working with the faith-based charity Samaritan’s Purse.

The plane operated by Phoenix Air Group, Inc. left Cartersville for Liberia on Thursday. In a press release Friday night, the company said, “the patients will be transported in highly specialized patient containment devices, following protocols developed and rehearsed with the CDC.”

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Friday afternoon, Emory held a news conference saying it is “looking very much forward to assisting” the Ebola patients. The hospital says Samaritan’s Purse first contacted them about bringing the patients to Atlanta. Doctors say treatment in the U.S. will give the patients a better chance of survival.

The hospital says it has taken every precaution and doctors “do not believe any healthcare worker, any other patient, or any visitor is at risk for infection.”

The patients will be kept isolated in special containment units, which will have a window and intercom system, and will be treated by highly trained personnel.

“We don’t believe that there is any likelihood at all that there will be any secondary cases,” said Dr. Bruce Ribner, an Emory professor in the Infectious Disease Division.

According to Emory officials, the victims will be the first Ebola patients to ever be treated at an institution in the United States. The hospital says it is talking with the FDA and the CDC about possible experimental treatments.

Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston found out from Samaritan's Purse that Brantly and Writebol are in serious condition.

The organization is also evacuating 60 nonessential Samaritan’s Purse and SIM staff and dependents in Liberia. They are all healthy and expected to be back in the United States by the end of the weekend, according to the organization.

The hospital told Huddleston that only a limited number of hospital employees will be near the Ebola patients.

ABC News Medical Director Richard Besser says, from what he knows, the hospital is well equipped to handle an Ebola patient.

"Having a place like Emory where people are trained, they exercise on this, they know what they're doing, is exactly where you want a patient like this to come, because they will do everything to reduce that risk," Besser told Huddleston.

Samaritan's Purse says Writebol is expected to arrive in Atlanta "within the next few days." She will also be transported to Emory.

The FBI released a statement to Channel 2's Mark Winne saying they are helping to provide security for the arrival and transfer of the patients.

"The FBI, in working with officials at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Health and Human Services (HHS), provided security in conjunction with today's first arrival and transport of an Ebola patient scheduled for treatment at Atlanta.  The FBI will provide similar security as an extra layer of protection to the public upon the arrival in the next few days of an additional Ebola patient.  The FBI is coordinating with Emory University's Police Department with regard to any additional security concerns or needs," said the statement.

Stay with Channel 2 Action News and as this story continues to develop.

Patients gravely ill

Family members for the two Ebola victims say their loves one are gravely ill and remain positive that they will make a full recovery.

"I remain hopeful and believing that Kent will be healed from this dreadful disease," Brantly's wife, Amber, said in a statement released by Samaritan's Purse. She and the couple's two young children left Liberia for Texas before her husband was infected, and she said they are fine.

"She's tired and she's wearied and a bit sad as well. I know it's been hard because she never imagined that this would be something that she would have to deal with,” Nancy's son Jeremy Whitebol said.

An experimental serum for treating Ebola arrived in Liberia, and Brantly requested it be given to Writebol when he learned there was only enough for one, according to a news release from Samaritan’s Purse.

“Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse. “However, Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who has 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.”

U.S. issues travel warning

U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to the three West African countries hit by an outbreak of Ebola.

The travel advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year.

"The bottom line is Ebola is worsening in West Africa," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who announced the travel warning.

He called Ebola "a tragic, dreadful and merciless virus."

The purpose of the travel warning is to not only protect U.S. travelers, but limit their use of overburdened clinics and hospitals for injuries or other illnesses, he said.

For more than a month, the CDC has advised travelers to simply take precautions when in the outbreak region. The alert that was issued on Thursday is the highest-level. The World Health Organization, however, has not issued a similar travel warning for the West Africa region. The last time the CDC issued a high-level warning was in 2003 because of a SARS outbreak in Asia.

More about the outbreak

The current outbreak is the largest since the disease first emerged in Africa nearly 40 years ago. The virus is contagious and is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from a sick person. Ebola can't be spread like the flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.

Experts estimate that in this outbreak, about 60 percent of the people who have gotten sick with Ebola have died — a frightening fatality rate that is among the highest of any disease. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment for it.

The CDC has about two dozen staffers in West Africa to help try to control the outbreak. Frieden on Thursday said the CDC will send 50 more in the next month. CDC workers in Africa are also helping screen passengers at airports, he said.

The CDC has said that the risk of a traveler bringing the Ebola virus to the United States remains small. On Monday, the agency sent a health alert to U.S. doctors, updating them about the outbreak. The alert stressed they should ask about foreign travel in patients who come down with Ebola-like symptoms, including fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea.

Even if a traveler infected with Ebola came to the U.S., the risk of an outbreak is considered very low, Frieden said. Patients are contagious only when they show symptoms and U.S. hospitals are well equipped to isolate cases and control spread of the virus.

Frieden also noted that relatively few people travel from West Africa to the United States. He said about 10,000 travelers from those countries come to the United States in an average three- or four-month period, and most do not arrive on direct flights.

The CDC has staff at 20 U.S. airports and border crossings. They evaluate any travelers with signs of dangerous infectious diseases, and isolate them when necessary. The agency is prepared to increase that staffing if needed, he said.

Frieden said a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States "is not in the cards."