Emory's chief nurse: Here's why we brought the Ebola patients to the U.S.

Every Emory worker involved in treating the patients volunteered to do so

Writing in the Washington Post this week, Emory University Hospital chief nurse Susan Grant explains why the fears surrounding the Ebola patients brought to her hospital "are unfounded."

The deadliest Ebola outbreak

More than 1,700 people have been infected and more than 900 have died in the 2014 Ebola outbreak—the deadliest outbreak of the virus since it was first detected in 1976, according to World Health Organization (WHO). The outbreak of began in Guinea in March and has easily spread across Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria.

Our timeline: How the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history spread

On Wednesday, CDC issued a Level 1 response to the outbreak—a response the agency has not issued since the 2009 flu epidemic. The move allows the agency to deploy 50 health workers to the affected nations over the next month.

There is no known vaccine and no cure for Ebola. An experimental, unapproved serum was used on two Americans who contracted the virus while serving as medical volunteers with not-for-profit Samaritan's Purse—physician Kent Brantly and medical missionary Nancy Writebol.

Health workers become victims of the world's deadliest Ebola outbreak

The 'secret serum,' as many media outlets are calling it, was sent to West Africa and administered to Brantly and Writebol. They have since been transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where they are being treated in a special isolation unit.

Why have they been brought to the United States?

The move to the United States has caused some fear that the virus could spread on U.S. soil, but those "fears are unfounded and reflect a lack of knowledge about Ebola and our ability to safely manage and contain it," Grant writes.

 

In the column, Grant explains how the unit was specifically created for treating highly infectious patients and how the staff has been thoroughly trained in infection protocols.

The U.S. volunteers "went to Africa on a humanitarian mission to help eradicate a disease that is especially deadly in countries without our health care infrastructure... They have a right to come home for their care when it can be done effectively and safely," Grant writes.

According to Grant, every Emory worker involved in their treatment volunteered for the assignment. Two nurses even canceled vacations to serve on the team. "They derive satisfaction from knowing that, after years of preparing for this type of case, they are able to help, to comfort, and to do it safely," Grant writes.

How U.S. hospitals are preparing for Ebola

Addressing concerns about Ebola spreading in the United States, Grant writes that Ebola "won't become a threat to the general public from their presence in our facility, but the insight we gain by caring for them will prepare us to better treat emergent diseases that may confront the United States in the future."

Is your airport a hub for infectious disease?

She concludes, "We can either let our actions be guided by misunderstandings, fear, and self-interest, or we can lead by knowledge, science, and compassion. We can fear, or we can care" (Grant, Washington Post, 8/6; Johnson, Modern Healthcare, 8/7 [subscription required]; Stanglin, USA Today, 8/7).


Next in the Daily Briefing

Optimism v. pessimism: Which is healthier?

Read now