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August 8, 2014

Ebola Patients On American Soil And How This Affects Us

Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in Nzara, Sudan, and in the Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. The latter was in a village situated near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.

Following the first ever Ebola patient on American soil, Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, Nancy Writebol, 59, landed Tuesday at Dobbins Air Force Base. After traveling from Monrovia, Liberia, Writebol headed for treatment in a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital, located near the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA.

The Emory isolation unit, designed to optimize care for those with highly infectious diseases, is one of only four of its kind in the United States.

Just as the groundbreaking arrival of both Ebola patients, another first is the use of an experimental drug in their treatment, ZMapp, developed by a San Diego-based biotech firm. Despite never being subjected to clinical trials, the medication is garnering much attention.

Five days ago in Liberia, Brantly’s condition deteriorated so rapidly that he called his wife to say goodbye. Stored at subzero temperatures, three vials of ZMapp were flown into Liberia specifically for both now-famous patients. Relief groups in Africa caring for Writebol and Brantly have said the condition of each improved after they received the never before used drug. Doctors, however, cannot confirm whether the drug works.

(Image Courtesy: Jalopnik)

Developed with U.S. military funding by the San Diego-based company, ZMapp uses antibodies harvested from monkeys and lab animals previously injected with parts of the Ebola virus. Currently, tobacco plants in Kentucky are being used to make the medicine. However, the monetary costs, of which the tab is still running, have been substantial.

Bruce Johnson, President of SIM USA, the aid group with which both patients worked under in Liberia, stated costs for the care and transportation of Writebol and Brantly have topped $2 million, with about $1 million spent by SIM USA and more than $1 million by Samaritan’s Purse.

Price tag aside, both patients currently are receiving the best care money can buy. David Writebol, Nancy’s husband, remains in Liberia, where he said his wife’s care, just as it has been thus far in the U.S., was extraordinary.

(Image Courtesy: Jalopnik)

“It’s not like having a nurse come in every hour to fluff up your pillow,” he said in his statement. “It’s more like going into a nuclear reactor. The suits are clumsy, hot and uncomfortable. But it was like watching the love of Christ take place right before your eyes.”

“A week ago we were thinking about making funeral arrangements for Nancy,” David Writebol, said in a statement read by the president of SIM USA.

Speaking of his wife’s improvement under her care in Atlanta, GA, “Now we have a real reason to be hopeful,” David Writebol said.

Since February, Ebola has killed close to 900 people, making it the worst outbreak of its kind in recorded history. According to experts, the death rate in the current epidemic is about 60 percent.

The infected patients are here in our backyard, so now what?

Being a former corpsman, I called a close friend, Dr. Carl Kesgen, another former corpsman with U.S. Marine S.T.A. Platoon (Scout Sniper) to get his opinion.

“It’s not like patients infected with Ebola can cough or sneeze and give you the disease,” he told me.

Transmission of EBV

No documented airborne transmission of Ebola infection exists. Moreover, Ebola is spread by close contact with blood and other bodily fluids (including embalming of an infected dead person) or contact with contaminated medical equipment, particularly needles and syringes. With that being said, it is not entirely clear how the detailed mechanisms of Ebola work.

What are your thoughts on allowing these patients on U.S. soil?

(Featured Image Courtesy: John Spink, AP)

About the Author

is a former Navy Corpsman with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion/Company. After two years of schools, including Combat Diver, French Foreign Legion Jungle Commando, Army JOTC, High Angle Cliff Rescue, and 18D lab, he deployed with the 22nd MEUSOC. Chris also has operated in the private sector conducting covert surveillance. He is currently a staff writer for Men’s Psychology Magazine, Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu Competition Team Member, and the author of three novels, including, “Waking of the Samurai” and “Clio and Cy: The Apocalypse.”

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  • YankeePapa

    . ...Not to get too deep into this, but the OAU (Organization of African Unity) loathed Rhodesia far more than South Africa.  That would seem counter-intuitive... but a native middle class was developing in Rhodesia and education was having an effect.  The "Presidents For Life" of most countries of the OAU did not want that in their countries... and not in a neighboring country.   . ...I was at a party in Seattle in the early 1980s and comment about what Africa needed... I said, "Education..."  Woman got in my face and said hotly, "Certainly not 'Western' education... just another form of cultural genocide..."  I guess that she was a fan of "People's Education..."   . ...One of the first things that terrs and bandits do in Africa is to kill teachers and burn schools... an educated population not what they want as potential victims or as potential recruits.  With the exception of a handful of bright spots, much of Africa will still be a mess a century from now.  How does any of this relate to Ebola? . . -YP-

  • LadyHW

    JHR LadyHW yeah, JHR, I know. Just read this in Foreign Policy Magazine. And thought I should post it. It is alarmist, but it doesn't do to put your head in the sand -- as they say.  I know all about Nathan. no worries. But when this came to my inbox, thought… wow. Foreign Policy Mag? Not right wing, you know. Usually pretty even handed. Personally I know docs who are working on the groung in West Africa. 2 have confirmed the medical system has collapsed there and some native docs are leaving large towns. Just saying...

  • JHR

    LadyHW Liberia has shut down their airlines out of Africa and it has reported several others will do the same. I'd be more worried about MERS-coronavirus or Mycoplasma I. (incognitos) than Ebola. For the straight facts, not hype, if you are interested, read Nathan Wolfe's papers and follow Global Viral Forecasting. Nathan maps and prevents future pandemics. He is considered to be the worlds greatest virus hunter. Ian Lipkin- a 2nd close runner up. But Nathan- is in the jungles where the zoonotic jump is happening. Cool Dude.

  • LadyHW

    Ok… this from Foreign Policy Magazine: "You Are Not Nearly Scared Enough" -- This got my attention. ---- Attention World: You just don't get it. You think there are magic bullets in some rich country's freezers that will instantly stop the relentless spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa? You think airport security guards in Los Angeles can look a traveler in the eyes and see infection, blocking that jet passenger's entry into La-la-land? You believe novelist Dan Brown's utterly absurd of a World Health Organization that has a private C5-A military transport jet and disease SWAT team that can swoop into outbreaks, saving the world from contagion? Wake up, fools. What's going on in West Africa now isn't Brown's sillyInferno scenario -- it's Steven Soderberg's movie, though without a modicum of its high-tech capacity. Last week, my brilliant Council on Foreign Relations colleague John Campbell, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, that spread of the virus inside Lagos -- which has apopulation of 22 million -- would instantly transform this situation into a worldwide crisis, thanks to the chaos, size, density, and mobility of not only that city but dozens of others in the enormous, oil-rich nation. Add to the Nigerian scenario civil war, national elections, Boko Haram terrorists, and a country-wide doctors' strike -- all of which are real and current -- and you have a scenario so overwrought and frighteningthat I could not have concocted it evenwhen I screenwriter on his Contagion script. Inside the United States, politicians,, and much of the media are focused on wildly experimental drugs and vaccines, and equally wild notions of "" by barring travelers and "" Let's be clear: Absolutely no drug or vaccine has been proven effective against the Ebola virus in human beings.To date, only one person -- Dr. Kent Brantly -- has apparently receiving one of the three prominent putative drugs, and there is no proof that the drug was key to his improvement. None of the potential vaccines has even undergone safety trials in humans, though at least two are scheduled to enter that stage before December of this year.And Phase One is the swiftest, easiest part of new vaccine trials -- the two stages of clinical trials aimed at proving that vaccines actually work will be difficult, if not impossible, to ethically and safely execute. If one of the vaccines is ready to beused in Africa sometime in 2015, the measure will be executed without prior evidence that it can work, which in turn will require massive public education to ensure that people who receive the vaccination do not change their behaviors in ways that might put them in contract with Ebola -- because they mistakenly believe they are immune to the virus. We are in for a very long haul with this extremely deadly disease -- it haskilled of those laboratory-confirmed infections, and possibly more than 70 percent of the infected populations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Nigeria is struggling to ensure that no secondary spread of Ebola comes from one of the people alreadyinfected by Liberian traveler Patrick Sawyer -- two of whom have died so far. That effort expanded on Wednesday, when Nigerian health authorities announced that a nurse who had treated Sawyer in Lagos and traveled to Enugu a city that, as of 2006, has a population of Though the nurse has not shown symptoms of the disease, the incubation time for infection, which is, hasn't elapsed. Since the Ebola outbreak began in March there have been many reports of isolated cases of the disease in travelers to other countries. None have resulted, so far, in secondary spread, establishing new epidemic focuses of the disease. As I write this, such a case is thought to have occurred, South Africa's largest city, and another suspected case reportedly in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, prompting the kingdom to issue for the upcoming hajj. It's only a matter of time before one of these isolated cases spreads, possibly in a chaotic urban center far larger than the ones in which it is now claiming lives: Conakry, Guinea; Monrovia, Liberia; and Freetown, Sierra Leone. So what does "getting it" mean for understanding what we, as a global community, must now do? First of all, we must appreciate the scale of need on the ground in the three Ebola-plagued nations. While the people may pray for magic bullets, their health providers are not working in Hollywood, but rather in some of the most impoverished places on Earth. Before Ebola, these countries spent per capita on healthcare. Most Americans spend more than that annually on aspirin and ibuprofen. I myself have received emails fromphysicians in these countries, describing the complete collapse of all non-Ebola care, from unassisted deliveries to untended auto accident injuries. People aren't just dying of the virus, but from every imaginable medical issue a system of care usually faces. …… more in the article link.

  • HonestBroker247

    It should be noted that this in not the first time Ebola has made an appearance in the United States ... In fact, there is a strain of the virus known as the "Reston virus" after Reston, Virginia where Ebola appeared in 1989.  There was also an instance in 1990.