American Ebola patient 'seems to be improving,' CDC chief says

Willie Grace | 8/5/2014, 7:18 p.m. | Updated on 8/5/2014, 7:18 p.m.
The Christian charity that employs Dr. Kent Brantly confirmed that the 33-year-old received a dose of an experimental serum before ...

An American doctor infected with Ebola is making progress a day after he arrived in Atlanta from Liberia, where he contracted the deadly virus.

"It's encouraging that he seems to be improving," Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "That is really important, and we are hoping he will continue to improve."

The Christian charity that employs Dr. Kent Brantly confirmed that the 33-year-old received a dose of an experimental serum before leaving Liberia.

"We praise God for the news that Kent's condition is improving," Samaritan's Purse said in a statement.

Brantly, the first known patient with the deadly virus to be treated on U.S. soil, landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia on Saturday and was quickly rushed to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital.

He's one of two Americans sickened by the deadly viral hemorrhagic fever last month while on the front lines of a major outbreak in West Africa.

Emory has said it will treat Brantly and fellow missionary Nancy Writebol in an isolation unit.

Phoenix Air says its highly specialized air ambulance, equipped with an isolation unit, departed Georgia for Liberia on Sunday evening to pick up Writebol. The flight is scheduled to land in Georgia on Tuesday.

Brantly's wife, parents and sister cried when they saw him on CNN walking from the ambulance into the hospital, another representative of Samaritan's Purse said on condition of anonymity. His wife, Amber, later said she was relieved that her husband was back in the United States and was "confident that he is receiving the very best care."

"I was able to see Kent today. He is in good spirits," she said Sunday. "He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol's safe return and full recovery."

Amber Brantly visited her husband along with their daughter in Liberia, but Frieden said "they did not have contact with him when he was sick, so it does not appear that they would be at risk."

Brantly, who has ties to Texas and Indiana, and Writebol, of North Carolina, became sick while caring for Ebola patients in Liberia, one of three West African nations hit by an outbreak.

Treatment in isolation

This will be the first human Ebola test for a U.S. medical facility. The patients will be treated at an isolated unit where precautions are in place to keep such deadly diseases from spreading, unit supervisor Dr. Bruce Ribner said.

Everything that comes in and out of the unit will be controlled, Ribner said, and it will have windows and an intercom for staff to interact with patients without being in the room.

Ebola doesn't spread through airborne or waterborne methods. It spreads through contact with organs and bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, urine and other secretions of infected people.

There is no FDA-approved treatment for Ebola, and Emory will use what Ribner calls "supportive care." That means carefully tracking a patient's symptoms, vital signs and organ function and taking measures, such as blood transfusions and dialysis, to keep patients stable.