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Why there's no need to panic about the Ebola patient in the US

World Health Organization officials prepare to enter a hospital during a 2012 Ebola outbreak in Uganda.
World Health Organization officials prepare to enter a hospital during a 2012 Ebola outbreak in Uganda.
Isaac Kasamani/AFP via Getty Images

The State Department has brought one of two US citizens infected with Ebola in West Africa back for treatment. The patient, Dr. Kent Brantly, is now being treated in a special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, according to Reuters.

Emory University confirmed that they're treating the patient in a statement:

This special isolation unit was previously developed to treat patients who are exposed to certain serious infectious diseases. It is physically separate from other patient areas and has unique equipment and infrastructure that provide an extraordinarily high level of clinical isolation.

Emory University Hospital physicians, nurses and staff are highly trained in the specific and unique protocols and procedures necessary to treat and care for this type of patient. The standard, rigorous infection control procedures used at Emory protect the patient, Emory health care workers, and the general public. As the CDC says, Ebola does not pose a significant risk to the U.S. public.

The statement also said that a second patient should arrive sometime the week of August 3. It's most likely that this patient is missionary Nancy Writebol, the other infected American.

Transmission of Ebola will be prevented using standard protocols, and health officials say that the two pose very little risk to the general public.

Even if there were some terrible, unforeseen accident with one of these patients, Ebola wouldn't be likely to spread very far. First, Ebola doesn't jump from person to person through the air, but through close contact by touching bodily fluids such as sweat, vomit, or blood. The outbreak in West Africa is so severe for a number of key reasons, including a lack of resources, inadequate infection-control measures, and mistrust of health workers. The United States, by contrast, has far better public-health infrastructure. And that makes all the difference.

For a step-by-step walkthrough of the "Ebola loose in America" scenario, read "What would happen if Ebola came to the United States?"

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