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Aid worker with Ebola returning to US

  • This Oct. 7, 2013 photo provided by Jeremy Writebol show his mother, Nancy Writebol, with children in Liberia. Writebol is one of two Americans working for a missionary group in Liberia that have been diagnosed with Ebola. Plans are underway to bring back the two Americans from Africa for treatment. (AP Photo/Courtesy Jeremy Writebol)

ATLANTA — An American missionary with Ebola is getting better and has received the second dose of an experimental treatment, according to the aid organization she works for in West Africa's Liberia.

Nancy Writebol is expected to be flown to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital on Tuesday, where she will join another U.S. aid worker, Dr. Kent Brantly, in a special isolation unit. Brantly, who was flown to the hospital Saturday, also received the experimental treatment before he left Africa.

The two Americans worked at an Ebola clinic in Liberia, one of three West Africa countries struggling to contain an outbreak of the deadly disease in West Africa. Health care workers are among the most vulnerable because of their close contact with patients.

Writebol, 59, has been in isolation at her home in Liberia since she was diagnosed last month. She's now walking with assistance and has regained her appetite, said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, the Charlotte, North Carolina.-based group that she works for in Africa.

Johnson was hesitant to credit the treatment for her improvement. Brantly's condition has also improved.

"Ebola is a tricky virus and one day you can be up and the next day down. One day is not indicative of the outcome," he said. But "we're grateful this medicine was available."

The experimental treatment is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, with funding from the government. The treatment is aimed at boosting the immune system's efforts to fight off the virus. It is made from antibodies produced by lab animals exposed to parts of the Ebola virus.

It's impossible to know what if any role the experimental treatment played in the Americans' improvement— they could have improved on their own, as others who survived Ebola have done.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, but several are under development. Brantly, who works for the international relief group Samaritan's Purse, also received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy, an Ebola survivor, who had been under his care, according to the group.

In the meantime, dozens of African heads of state were in Washington on Monday for the opening of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a three-day gathering hosted by President Barack Obama. Among the stated purposes: discussing how to help African nations overcome systemic challenges, including disease.


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