NEW YORK - Two American aid workers seriously ill with Ebola will be brought from West Africa to Atlanta for treatment in one of the most tightly sealed isolation units in the country, officials said Friday.
One is expected to arrive Saturday, and the other a few days later, according to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital, where they will be treated. They are due to arrive in a private jet outfitted with a special, portable tent designed for transporting patients with highly infectious diseases.
It will be the first time anyone infected with the disease is brought into the country. U.S. officials are confident the patients can be treated without putting the public in any danger.
In this undated photo released by the Center for Disease Control, a Aeromedical Biological Containment System which looks like a sealed isolation tent for Ebola air transportation is shown. On Thursday afternoon, officials at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital said they expected one of the Americans to be transferred there 'within the next several days.' The hospital declined to identify which aid worker, citing privacy laws.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person, not through the air.
The two Americans - Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol - worked for U.S. missionary groups in Liberia at a hospital that treated Ebola patients. The State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting the groups in their transfer.
The government is working to ensure that any Ebola-related evacuations "are carried out safely, thereby protecting the patient and the American public," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement released Friday.
A Department of Defense spokesman said Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, will be used for the transfer.
The aircraft is a Gulfstream jet fitted with what essentially is a specialized, collapsible clear tent designed to house a single patient and stop any infectious germs from escaping. It was built to transfer CDC employees exposed to contagious diseases for treatment. The CDC said the private jet can only accommodate one patient at a time.
Brantly and Writebol are in serious condition and were still in Liberia on Friday, according to the North Carolina-based charity Samaritan's Purse, which is paying for their transfer and medical care.
An Emory emergency medical team in Liberia has evaluated the two aid workers, and deemed both stable enough for the trip to Atlanta, said Emory's Dr. Bruce Ribner. Hospital spokesman Vincent Dollard said the first patient was scheduled to arrive Saturday.