US missionary with Ebola leaving Liberia Tuesday, heading for America

By Krista Larson, Associated Press

Published: Sun, Aug. 3, 2014, 12:00 p.m. MDT

 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.

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.

(Courtesy Jeremy Writebo)

ATLANTA — A second American missionary stricken with Ebola is expected to fly Tuesday to the U.S. for treatment, following a colleague who was admitted over the weekend to Emory University Hospital's infectious disease unit.

A Liberian official confirmed to The Associated Press plans for Nancy Writebol to depart with a medical evacuation team. The official, Information Minister Lewis Brown, said the evacuation flight was scheduled to leave West Africa between 1 a.m. and 1.30 a.m. local time Tuesday.

Writebol's son, Jeremy Writebol of Wichita, Kansas, said his mother "is still struggling" but that "there seems to be improvement" and that the family is optimistic she will recover amid a spreading Ebola outbreak that has killed at least 729 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The Writebols' mission team partner, Dr. Kent Brantly, also was improving Sunday after he was admitted to Emory's quarantine unit a day earlier, according to a statement from his wife.

"Our family is rejoicing over Kent's safe arrival, and we are confident that he is receiving the very best care," Amber Brantly said, adding that she was able to see her husband Sunday.

Brantly and Nancy Writebol served on the same mission team treating Ebola victims when they contracted the virus themselves. Brantly was serving as a physician in the hospital compound near Monrovia, Liberia, when he became infected. Writebol worked as a hygienist whose role included decontaminating those entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area at that hospital.

There is no cure for Ebola, which causes hemorrhagic fever that kills at least 60 percent of the people it infects in Africa. Ebola spreads through close contact with bodily fluids and blood, meaning it is not spread as easily as airborne influenza or the common cold. Africa's under-developed health care system and inadequate infection controls make it easier for the Ebola virus to spread and harder to treat.

Any modern hospital using standard infection-control measures should be able to handle it, and Emory's infectious disease unit is one of about four in the U.S. that is specially equipped to test and treat people exposed to the most dangerous viruses.

Patients are quarantined, sealed off from anyone who is not in protective gear. Lab tests are conducted inside the unit, ensuring that viruses don't leave the quarantined area. Family members can see and communicate with patients only through barriers.

Brantly arrived Saturday under stringent protocols, flying from West Africa to Dobbins Air Reserve base outside Atlanta in a small plane equipped to contain infectious diseases. A small police escort followed his ambulance to Emory, where he emerged dressed head to toe in white protective clothing and walked into the hospital on his own power.

A physician from Texas, Brantly is a Samaritan's Purse missionary. The Writebols are working through SIM USA. The two Christian organizations have partnered to provide health care in West Africa.

The Rev. John Munro, the Writebols' pastor at Calvary Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, described the couple as "quiet, unassuming people" who felt called by God" to go overseas 15 years ago.

Jeremy Writebol said his parents spent five years in Ecuador and nine years in Zambia before going to Liberia last August.

Munro added, "They take the Great Commission literally," a reference to the scriptural instruction from Jesus Christ to "make disciples of all nations."

Munro, whose church sponsors the Writebols' mission work, recalled speaking with the couple when the Ebola outbreak began. "We weren't telling them to come back; we were just willing to help them come back," he said. "They said, 'The work isn't finished, and it must continue.'"

The outbreak comes as nearly 50 African heads of state come to Washington, D.C., for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit — billed as a tool for African nations to integrate more into the world economy and community. With the outbreak, however, the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone have scrapped their plans to attend the three-day summit opening Monday.

Meanwhile, some airlines that serve West Africa have suspended flights, while international groups, including the Peace Corps, have evacuated some or all of their representatives in the region.

In the United States, public health officials continue to emphasize that treating Brantly and Writebol in the U.S. poses no risks to the public here.

"We know how to control it: hospital infection control and stopping it at the source in Africa," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Frieden's agency is ramping up its effort to combat the outbreak. He promised "50 staff on the ground" in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone "in the next 30 days."

Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press reporter Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kansas, contributed to this report.

1. trekker
Salt Lake, UT,
Aug. 3, 2014

I think they should quarantine people infected to Africa and not risk it being spread here to the United States.

2. gittalopctbi
Glendale, AZ,
Aug. 4, 2014

I had deep concerns about this disease coming to the US via airline passengers and still do. However, if all who were infected or suspected of being infected are processed in the manner that I read in this article (airplane equipped to handle such patients, police escort, protective clothing, quarantined and self-contained patient rooms, hospitals designed to handle such diseases) I would feel more at ease about it.

3. JWB
Kaysville, UT,
Aug. 4, 2014

Children are the ones lost in all these countries. Their ancestors have fought for years and haven't done the necessary things for children's welfare and safety. The children don't get the education they need and learn their ancestor's trade of fighting for life They don't have liberty to enjoy a life or much of a life. They life as generations live.

These missionaries wanted to bring hope and vitality to these people but have a deadly disease that as impacted the rest of their life. having lived in similar countries, it is a shame to see what we had in our country move downward to what other countries have. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has made our country still a viable nation for many to still want to admire. We have been a refuge for generations but their own lands have great potential if people change their hearts and souls. Hate is what the adversary wants and war in other people's countries have taken a toll on our own dedicated and valued military and their families for almost 20 years.

War on poverty takes a toll on our missionary doctors and others.

4. Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA,
Aug. 4, 2014

Ebola can only be transmitted via direct contact with either infected blood or semen. The risk of this infection spinning out of control in the U.S. is zero - the only reason it's spreading modestly in Africa is because of the way they handle dead bodies there. People need to get educated on what this virus is and what it isn't - all these precautions the infected clinicians are being subjected to only exist to placate an uneducated and paranoid U.S. population.

5. Anti Bush-Obama
Chihuahua, 00,
Aug. 4, 2014

Brave Sir Robin

Why is it then that over 100 health workers in the infected areas have become infected with the disease itself? Apparently wearing protective clothing isnt enough. To say there will never be be an outbreak here is just prideful and arrogant.