A fourth American sickened with Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa arrived today by air ambulance and is being treated at Atlanta's Emory University Hospital, as countries scrambled to send aid, with case and death numbers rising even higher in the three hardest-hit countries.
According to a statement from Emory, the patient arrived at the hospital at 10:25 am local time. Television news footage showed the patient walking into the hospital in head-to-toe protective gear with assistance from a health worker, also in full protective gear.
The hospital said the patient will be treated in the same isolation unit where two American medical workers also sickened in West Africa were treated in August before their release.
Patient could be WHO doctor
Emory said it was unable to list details about the patient, due to confidentiality requirements. However, media sources suggested the patient is a doctor who got sick while working for the World Health Organization (WHO).
Yesterday the WHO announced that one of its doctors was infected with the virus while working in Sierra Leone and would be evacuated to another country. It did not say where the doctor is from or give any other details, but some media outlets citing the US State Department said the doctor is from the United States.
The patient hospitalized at Emory today is the fourth American to be airlifted out of West Africa's EVD outbreak region. The third American, Rick Sacra, MD, is being treated at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha after contracting EVD while working in Liberia. The hospital said in its latest update that Sacra continues to improve and that his doctors are encouraged by improvements in his lab values and clinical condition.
US budget request, funds for health workers
In the US response to West Africa's outbreak, legislation to fund the government into the next fiscal year, expected to be introduced and voted on in the House of Representatives this week, contains an extra $88 million request from the Obama administration to help battle the disease, Reuters reported yesterday.
The amount includes $54 million to speed the production of the ZMapp experimental antiviral and two Ebola vaccines that are undergoing clinical trials, as well as $30 million more for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Harold Rogers, R-Ky., House Appropriations Committee chairman, said he was reviewing Obama's request for extra Ebola resources, but declined to say if the full amount would be funded, Reuters reported.
In another development, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said today the United States will contribute $10 million to support the African Union's urgent deployment of trained medical workers to West Africa's outbreak zone, the largest single infusion of personnel to the region so far.
In a statement it said the funding will be used to transport about 100 health workers to Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. The number includes 25 doctors, 45 nurses, and other essential personnel to manage and run EVD treatment units.
So far the United States has spent more than $100 million on the response, and USAID added that today's announcement complements its plan unveiled last week to make up to $75 million in additional funding available. The latest US contribution will provide the health workers with emergency supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), and USAID said its ongoing support will provide resources for 1,000 new beds, 130,000 PPE sets, and 50,000 hygiene kits.
Rajiv Shah, MD, USAID administrator, said in the statement that the United States is committed to supporting the African Union's outbreak response. "We can and will stop this epidemic, but it will take a coordinated effort by the entire global community," he said.
The WHO yesterday said cases, especially in Liberia, were increasing exponentially, far outstripping the capacities of outbreak countries and nongovernmental organizations to respond. It called for "nonconventional interventions" to battle the outbreak and called on wealthy countries to help by sending civilian or military biological disaster response teams. The United States and Britain have both vowed to mobilize military assets to help West Africa battle the outbreak.
Meanwhile, Chinese health officials visiting Sierra Leone said yesterday that China would help the country set up an Ebola lab and an Ebola holding center at the Sierra Leone-China Friendship Hospital just outside the capital city of Freetown, stated a report today from Xinhua, China's state news agency.
Italy has sent a four-member mobile laboratory team, homeopathic medications, and food to assist Liberia with its outbreak response, Liberia News Agency (LINA) reported yesterday.
Case numbers accelerate
In a "roadmap response" update today the WHO said that as of Sep 6 the number of infections in the three main outbreak countries reached 4,269, an increase of 325 from a Sep 5 update. The latest fatality count is 2,288, which is 191 more than the WHO's last update.
Health officials have said official counts vastly underestimate the true size of the EVD outbreak.
The WHO said case-count increases continue to accelerate in countries with widespread and intense transmission: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Also, the WHO released a map showing the areas of most intense transmission. It added that eight districts that previously had cases have reported no cases during the 21 days preceding Sep 5. However, two previously uninfected areas reported cases over the past week: the River Gee area in Liberia and the Coyah area of Guinea.
Meanwhile, the situation remained stable in Nigeria, which reports 21 cases and 8 deaths, and in Senegal, which has confirmed just the original index case, in a university student from Guinea. The WHO said Senegalese health officials are following 67 contacts of the patient, who remains in isolation.
Sep 9 Emory press release
Sep 9 Nebraska Medical Center statement
Sep 8 Reuters story
Sep 9 USAID press release
Sep 9 Xinhua story
Sep 8 LINA report
Sep 9 WHO Ebola roadmap update