A Texas doctor with San Angelo ties landed on U.S. soil over the weekend, after being evacuated from West Africa where he contracted the deadly Ebola virus.
Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician who has been working as a medical missionary in Liberia since October, began showing symptoms of the virus in mid-July, just days after his wife and two children left the country to return to Texas for a wedding.
Brantly and his family had moved to Monrovia a few months before the Ebola epidemic hit the area. As a missionary for Samaritan’s Purse, Brantly worked to give care to those infected by the virus while his wife, Amber, worked as a nurse.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the incubation period from infection to when symptoms begin showing ranges from 2-21 days. The virus is transmitted by close contact with bodily fluids and secretions of those infected with the disease. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms begin to show, and has an up to 90 percent fatality rate.
Brantly’s family found out about his illness shortly after their departure from Liberia. The father and husband was supposed to follow his family, but when symptoms of the virus presented, he was forced to stay behind in Africa.
Official word from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been that Brantly’s family poses no risk to the U.S. population, as Brantly’s infection was not contagious when the three departed. Neither his wife nor his 3- and 5-year-old children have exhibited symptoms of the virus.
Shortly following the family’s return, Brantly’s sister-in-law sent out an urgent prayer request to friends and family, asking that those close to him pray for a full recovery.
“The death rate is high for this virus but our hope is beyond medical reasoning; we pray with hope and anticipate a full recovery,” the email states. “His body is tired as he’s served so many others for several long months. His heart is strong…please join us in fervent, immediate prayer. Please share this with as many as you know as we call on the Great Physician to bring HIS comfort and healing for our brother. In all things may HE be glorified.”
Around the same time Brantly was diagnosed, a second U.S medical missionary, Nancy Writebol, began showing symptoms of the virus. Writebol also worked for the North Carolina-based Christian organization as a hygienist, responsible for disinfecting doctors and nurses working with Ebola patients.
Even with thorough disinfection measures and precautionary armor to prevent contamination, both Brantly and Writebol tested positive for the virus. Shortly thereafter, a single dose of an experimental serum was sent to Liberia, which Brantly asked be used on Writebol, NBC News reports.
On Saturday, Brantly arrived at Dobbins Air Reserve Base just outside Atlanta, Ga. around 11:30 a.m., the first infected person in history to be brought into the United States for treatment, weather.com reports. The 33-year-old was then immediately transferred to Emory University Hospital, where he will be treated by a team of four doctors.
Aided by person in a hazmat suit, Brantly was able to walk into the hospital Saturday noon; his family watched his arrival on a video feed. They will be able to see him through plate glass windows in the hospital where he is quarantined.
Hygienist Nancy Writebol is scheduled to arrive at the same airfield and hospital on Tuesday, following a flight scheduled to leave at 1:30 a.m. Word of her condition has been underreported, however the Serving in Mission website states that she is in serious but stable condition. Brantly is reported to be doing better, and to have received a dose of the serum upon arriving in Georgia.
Neither of the families were available for comment at the time of publication. Amber Brantley’s family lives in Abilene, where she and children are reported to have been heading when her husband was diagnosed. Kent’s brother Chad Brantly owns a dental practice in San Angelo, however declined comment for privacy reasons.
Chad Brantly's dental office remains open in San Angelo, and at least one local dentist has offered to assist with patients while his brother is being treated. Whether or not Chad Brantly is still in San Angelo or has gone to be with family in Georgia has not been confirmed, and his Facebook page provides little insight into his brother's fight with Ebola, however he has shared many articles and media about the infection.
Brantly's wife has been submitting regular updates to Samaritan's Purse since July 31. In an entry dated Aug. 3, Amber writes:
"Our family is rejoicing over Kent’s safe arrival, and we are confident that he is receiving the very best care. We are very grateful to the staff at Emory University Hospital, who have been so nice and welcoming to us. I was able to see Kent today. He is in good spirits. He thanked everyone for their prayers and asked for continued prayer for Nancy Writebol’s safe return and full recovery."
The Centers for Disease Control reports 1,440 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus in four West African countries, including Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, as of July 30. Some 826 deaths are suspected to have been caused by the virus thus far in those regions. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an additional 163 new cases and 61 deaths between July 31 and Aug. 4.