The husband of an American woman infected with Ebola imagines he should be beside himself with worry but instead finds comfort in God’s grace.
His wife, Nancy Writebol, is one of two patients being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
She arrived in Atlanta on Tuesday, just days after American doctor Kent Brantly. Both had been in Liberia and are stricken with Ebola, which has so far killed more than 900 people in West Africa.
“It’s been difficult, and yet I have felt in a very real and unexpected way … the peace and the comfort of God through all of this,” David Writebol said Thursday, according to a partial transcript of the call.
He and his wife were junior high sweethearts.
“It is a singular experience to look upon a loved one, especially one where we have spent 40 years together … to see her on the brink of death and know there was nothing I could do to prevent that,” Writebol said.
Elsewhere in the United States, a male patient at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York has tested negative for Ebola, the hospital announced Wednesday. The patient, who had a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, is improving and is listed in stable condition, the hospital said in a written statement.
The man became ill after recently traveling to West Africa.
Is Experimental Drug Helping?
Both Brantly and Writebol were given the experimental drug ZMapp, which had not been tested on humans nor has it undergone any clinical trials.
Doctors say it’s too early to tell whether ZMapp is effective.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s not likely the drug will become available for patients in West Africa.
“The product is still in an experimental stage, and the manufacturer reports that there is a very limited supply, so it cannot be purchased and is not available for general use,” the CDC said.
President Barack Obama has said that “we’ve got to let the science guide us” on whether to make the experimental drug more widely available. “I don’t think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful,” he added during a news conference at the U.S. Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
The World Health Organization will convene a medical ethics panel early next week to answer questions about whom should receive ZMapp, given that it is in limited supply.
“We have a disease with a high fatality rate without any proven treatment or vaccine,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general at WHO.
“We need to ask the medical ethicists to give us guidance on what the responsible thing to do is,” she said.
Ebola Death Toll Rises
With WHO announcing Wednesday that 932 deaths had been reported or confirmed as a result of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Saudi Arabia joined the list of countries with suspected cases.
“This is the biggest and most complex Ebola outbreak in history,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC.
On Wednesday, the CDC raised the activation level of its Emergency Operations Center to Level 1, the highest state of alert. It is the first time the agency has issued such an alert since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.
During Level 1 operations, the Emergency Operations Center is staffed by more personnel and more senior staff.
It is a “very prudent” thing to do, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN on Thursday.
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Holly Yan and Josh Levs