Nancy Writebol, 59, arrived from Monrovia, Liberia, on a chartered jet Tuesday at Dobbins Air Reserve Base before being taken by ambulance to Emory. Her colleague, Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, also diagnosed with the virus, arrived at Emory three days earlier.
Isakson said he keeps in contact with Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, as well as the nearby Emory Hospital, and was aware of the request made to have the two aid workers treated.
“I think they made absolutely the right decision,” Isakson said. “I mean, these are two American citizens infected with a deadly disease, and we have a facility at Emory and the CDC capable of dealing with it safely. It may actually lead us to the breakthrough of where we find a vaccine or a treatment that will cure it.”
Every precaution to contain the aid workers and prevent their infections from spreading has been taken, Isakson said.
“Emory is a great hospital, and (the) CDC has the world’s preeminent epidemiologists, so I think Dr. Frieden did the right thing, I think Emory did the right thing and I feel perfectly assured of that, and we’re watching everything very closely,” the senator said.
Ebola and smallpox are viruses the CDC already tests in its labs, Isakson said.
“They’re constantly trying to find out ways to stop a contagion or to stop a pandemic that takes off, so that’s their job around the world. They did it with the avian flu, they’ve done it with so many other things, so it was the logical place to bring them, and they’re doing a phenomenal job, and they’ve taken the utmost security, so I have every confidence that they’ve done the right thing and the results of it will be positive.”
Flying into Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta was also a smart decision, Isakson said.
“You have a military base where everything is controlled,” Isakson said. “You don’t have all the commercial traffic and all the commercial passengers, so it was a perfectly logical decision.”
Isakson said Cartersville-based Phoenix Air, which was used to transport the aid workers, is the airline he uses when traveling to Africa during his Senate responsibilities.
“They’ve got great equipment, and they’ve got great capability as seen from the cocoons that they use to transport the two patients, and I’m proud of Emory, I’m proud of the CDC,” he said. “We’re very fortunate in Georgia to have the world’s preeminent health center in our backyard.”
Isakson said he’s traveled many times to West Africa, site of the Ebola outbreak. With respect to the people who live there, there is no comparison between health care there and here, he said.
“The hospitals don’t have screens on the windows and don’t have air conditioning, and their cleanliness standards are not anywhere close to what you and I have become accustomed to in our country,” he said. “Their health care system is not nearly as advanced nor as good as ours is, so it’s understandable how an infection or a contagion that’s transmitted from person to person could actually take place.”
Ebola does not transmit through air, but through bodily fluids, particularly the bodily fluids of the dead, he said.
“The difficulty with Ebola in West Africa is some of the — they handle funerals differently than we do,” he said. “The body will stay with the home with the family for a longer period of time. There is less sanitation, if you will, and the disposition of a body, and that’s one of the ways that it transmits by the bodily fluids of the deceased which are at their height upon the person dying, so we don’t have that type of situation here.”
This gives Isakson confidence in believing the U.S. will not see an Ebola outbreak.
“We’re capable of dealing with it,” he said. “I mean, if we were like West Africa, if we didn’t have the health care facilities, there’s no such thing as a private room in Africa. You’re in a ward. There’s no such thing as a private room. The traditions on funerals and disposing bodies is totally different — makes it much more difficult to keep people from coming in contact — whereas in the United States we’ve got the hospitals, we’ve got the facilities, we’ve got the security, all those type of things, so I feel very confident that the CDC will handle it perfectly, and as much as you wish this had not happened for the sake of the people that have been infected and died, the fact that it’s now at CDC, you may have the discovery of the vaccine for the treatment that treats the virus.”
Outgoing state Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Buckhead) wrote on his Facebook page this week, “Hysteria notwithstanding, as a Georgian I am proud that it is a Georgia air service and a Georgia hospital that have the capability to bring these two American humanitarians safely home and care for their illness.”
Isakson shares Lindsey’s sentiment.
“Having been to that part of the world in West Africa many times, to know and have the confidence that my country could get me home if I happen to get a contagious, dangerous, life-threatening disease and treat it is the greatest sense of surety in the world, so I join him in that,” Isakson said.