At least one of two American medical missionaries diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia could be back in the United States as early as Friday for treatment at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital.
The hospital has said only that there are plans for an American aid worker to be transferred to its facilities for treatment, but did not name the patient nor provide an arrival time. A medical transport plane left the United States on Thursday afternoon, headed to Liberia.
CNN reports, however, that the two Americans being airlifted from Liberia are Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. Both are described as being in grave but stable condition.
Brantly was in Liberia for the North Carolina-based missionary group Samaritan's Purse to oversee an Ebola treatment center. Writebol, with Service in Mission, was also working at the center.
Samaritan's Purse said in a statement Thursday that it was working to evucuate all but the most essential personnel to their home country by this weekend, although the center will remain open.
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention issued a travel warning on Thursday for all non-essential travelers to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in West Africa.
Sierra Leone had declared a statement of emergency, banning public meetings and sending troops door to door to look for new cases and to quarantine the homes of former patients. Liberia has closed its public schools.
"Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures. The Ebola virus disease poses an extraordinary challenge to our nation," Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a televised address declaring the state of emergency.
The World Health Organization says 729 people have died in the latest outbreak of Ebola in the region.
There is no vaccine nor specific treatment, which has produced a fatality rate of about 60% in the latest cases.
A U.S. citizen, Patrick Sawyer, died last week after arriving in Lagos, Nigeria, on a flight from Liberia aboard the regional airline Asky. sawyer, a Sawyer, a 40-year old consultant with the Liberian Ministry of Finance, is survived by a wife and three children in Coon Rapids, Minn.
Emory Hospital said on Thursday that it has a specially built isolation unit set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases.
The facility, they said, is physically separate from other patient areas of the hospital and is equipped to provide an extremely high level of clinical isolation. Emory's facility is one of only four of its type in the nation.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden said he doubted Ebola could spread in the United States. "That is not in the cards," he told reporters Thursday.