Atlanta Hospital Prepares To Treat 2 Ebola Patients

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Two American aid workers who were infected with the Ebola virus are being flown from West Africa to the U.S. Emory University Hospital says they'll be in a state-of-the-art containment unit.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. One of two American aid workers who contracted Ebola has arrived in the United States. Both aid workers will be treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Jim Burress from member station WABE reports on how Emory is prepared to treat them.

JIM BURRESS, BYLINE: Twelve years ago, Emory University Hospital constructed a special unit designed to help patients with highly infectious diseases. Doctors say they've used it a handful of times, including for a patient with SARS. That outbreak was more than a decade ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DR. BRUCE RIBNER: Emory University Hospital has been asked...

BURRESS: Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Emory's Dr. Bruce Ribner was confident the hospital could handle both Ebola patients.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RIBNER: 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. We have control over everything coming out of the unit.

BURRESS: This is the first time someone known to have Ebola will be on U.S. soil, Ribner says. He downplayed any threat to public safety because the virus can only be spread through close contact with an infected person.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RIBNER: You need to appreciate - Ebola virus is not spread by some magic mechanism.

BURRESS: But there is no cure for Ebola, which is why Ribner said a team of four doctors and two nurses will give patients supportive care. The goal - keep them alive long enough for the patient's bodies to control the infection. After the press conference, I asked Ribner if he had any thoughts for the patients' families.

RIBNER: We are optimistic that if they can arrive in a reasonably good state that we think we have a reasonable chance of recovering them to the health they had before they got ill.

BURRESS: The patients' conditions can change at any moment. That's why Ribner says his immediate concern is getting them here safely. For NPR News, I'm Jim Burress in Atlanta.

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