ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta/AP) — The husband of the second American aid worker recently diagnosed with Ebola says the patient is weak but showing signs of improvement.
The president of the aid group SIM USA said Tuesday that Nancy Writebol’s husband described the woman as progressing. Bruce Johnson says he spoke with David Writebol, who said 59-year-old Nancy stood and got on a plane in Liberia with assistance to head to Atlanta for treatment. When she arrived at Emory University Hospital Tuesday, she was wheeled in a stretcher. She is in the same isolation unit as Brantly.
David Writebol, still in Liberia, says the family was considering funeral arrangements, but now feels relieved and cautiously optimistic. He praised her treatment in Liberia.
SIM says it’s working to bring David Writebol home.
Johnson says SIM has spent nearly $1 million since the diagnoses of Nancy Writebol and the first American brought back, 33-year-old Dr. Kent Brantly. He works for Samaritan’s Purse. Johnson says that group has spent more than $1 million.
Both aid workers were infected despite taking precautions as they treated Ebola patients at a clinic in Liberia.
Family members said both Americans have been improving after taking an experimental drug; the hospital has not released any information on their conditions. Writebol’s employer, the SIM charity, said Tuesday that she remains in serious but stable condition.
The experimental treatment the two were given was developed with U.S. military funding by a San Diego company, using antibodies from lab animals that had been injected with parts of the Ebola virus. Tobacco plants in Kentucky are being used to make the drug, which hasn’t yet been tested in humans.
It’s impossible to know whether the drug saved these workers, stressed Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC in Atlanta.
“Every medicine has risks and benefits,” he said to reporters at a health symposium in Kentucky. “Until we do a study, we don’t know if it helps, if it hurts, or if it doesn’t make any difference.”
If this treatment works, it could create pressure to speed through testing and production to help contain the disease in Africa. Dozens of African heads of state were meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday at a summit in Washington. But it could take years before any treatment can be proven to be effective and safe.
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