A second American aid worker infected with Ebola arrived Tuesday in Atlanta, where doctors will closely monitor the effect of an experimental drug she agreed to take even though its safety was never tested on humans.
Nancy Writebol arrived from Monrovia, Liberia, in a chartered jet at Dobbins Air Reserve Base and was then taken in an ambulance to Emory University Hospital, just downhill from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She was wheeled from the ambulance in a stretcher. Three days earlier, Dr. Kent Brantly, also diagnosed with the virus, arrived at Emory and walked from an ambulance.
The two patients — being treated in an isolation unit — were infected despite taking precautions as they treated Ebola patients in West Africa, where the virus has been spreading faster than governments can contain it, killing nearly 900 people so far.
And while family members said both Americans have been improving after the novel treatment, doctors at Emory have released no details about the experimental drug. Writebol's employer, the SIM USA charity, said Tuesday that she remains in serious but stable condition.
The president of SIM said Tuesday that Writebol's husband described the woman as progressing. Bruce Johnson said he spoke with David Writebol, who said Nancy stood and got on a plane in Liberia with assistance to head to Atlanta.
The treatment was developed with U.S. military funding by a San Diego company, using antibodies harvested from mice that had been injected with parts of the Ebola virus. Tobacco plants in Kentucky are being used to reproduce it.
It's impossible to know whether the drug saved these workers from the hemorrhagic fever killing as many as 80 per cent of the people the virus is infecting in Africa. They could be recovering on their own, or for other reasons, including better medical care than many Africans get.
There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, but several are under development, including ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego. It works by boosting the immune system's efforts to fight the virus.
The U.S. Defence Threat Reduction Agency announced July 22 that it is providing more funding to speed the drug's development, including a critical application with the Food and Drug Administration and the production of enough of the drug to carry out human trials.
More outbreak in Nigeria
A total of eight people in Nigeria who were in direct contact with a man who flew to Lagos and died of Ebola now have symptoms of the dreaded and deadly disease and have been placed into quarantine, a Nigerian health official said Tuesday.
Of the eight, only a doctor who treated the traveller has so far tested positive for Ebola. The others are being tested, with results pending, said Lagos state health health commissioner Jide Idris.
The official death toll for the worst-ever outbreak for the disease stood on Monday at 887, according to the World Health Organization. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have been affected much more severely than Nigeria, which has experienced only one death. Though as Africa's most populous nation, Nigeria poses a grave risk of the disease catching on like wildfire.
Most of the people in quarantine had made contact in a hospital in Lagos with Liberian-American Patrick Sawyer, Idris told reporters. Sawyer died on July 25, five days after arriving in Nigeria.
Others may have been infected in Lagos, a city with a population of about 21 million, before doctors suspected that Sawyer had Ebola. They put him in isolation about 24 hours after he arrived at the hospital.
"At that point in time, especially the first day, the nature of the disease was not known," said Idris.
The West African outbreak of Ebola started in March.