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American missionary with Ebola in serious condition ahead of US return


ATLANTA - The second American aid worker who contracted the deadly Ebola virus while helping fight the disease in West Africa is expected to arrive in Atlanta on Tuesday, a relief organization said.

Missionary Nancy Writebol, 59, will fly on a medical aircraft from Liberia to Atlanta to be treated by infectious disease specialists in a special isolation ward at Emory University Hospital, according to Christian mission group SIM USA.

The specialists on Saturday began treating 33-year-old American doctor Kent Brantly, who also returned home after being stricken with Ebola during the emergency response to the worst outbreak on record of the hemorrhagic virus, which has killed more than 700 people since February.

Writebol and Brantly, who served on a joint team run by Christian aid groups SIM USA and Samaritan's Purse, are believed to be the first Ebola patients ever treated in the United States. They are returning separately because the plane equipped to transport them can carry only one patient at a time.

Writebol is in serious condition, SIM USA said on Monday.

"We are so grateful and encouraged to hear that Nancy's condition remains stable and that she will be with us soon," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA.

"Her husband, David, told me Sunday her appetite has improved and she requested one of her favorite dishes - Liberian potato soup - and coffee," Johnson said in a statement.

Brantly's wife said in a statement late on Sunday that she had been able to see her husband and he was in good spirits.

"He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol's safe return and full recovery," Amber Brantly said.

"Our family is rejoicing over Kent's safe arrival and we are confident that he is receiving the very best care," she said.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said on Sunday that Brantly's condition was improving but that it was too early to predict whether he would survive.

While the death rate in the current epidemic is about 60 percent, experts say, Ebola can have a fatality rate of up to 90 percent of those infected.

Standard treatment for the disease is to provide supportive care. Doctors at Emory will try to maintain blood pressure and support breathing of the workers, with a respirator if needed, or provide dialysis if they experience kidney failure, as some Ebola sufferers do.

The facility in Atlanta chosen to treat the two infected Americans was set up with CDC and is one of four in the country with the ability to handle such cases.

The CDC has said it is not aware of any Ebola patient having been treated in the United States before. Five people entered the country in the past decade with either Lassa Fever or Marburg, both hemorrhagic fevers similar to Ebola.

Writebol's husband, who had been living and working in Liberia with his wife, is expected to travel home separately in the next few days, SIM USA said.