Ebola update: Patient returns to US, Donald Trump is mad

An American Ebola patient returned to the US yesterday.  And Donald Trump is very upset about it, or something.

The first patient landed at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia, and was then transported in a biocontainment unit.  After landing, the patient was taken to Emory Hospital and placed in a special isolation unit designed to handle such patients.  The unit is separate from other areas of the hospital.  It even has a self-contained lab, so specimens from the patient can be tested in the unit itself.

The other Ebola patient is scheduled to follow in a few days and will also be treated at Emory.

Former Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is apparently beside himself over the news that American citizens are permitted to return to America when ill:

donald-trump-ebola

[NOTE FROM JOHN: People who help out are great, but must suffer the consequences? Why must they, if they’re doing something great? Trump’s tweet doesn’t even make sense. He makes it sound as if the people who are helping out did a reckless thing and deserve what they got, but at the same time he’s calling their actions “great.” So which is it?]

The patients will be treated by infectious disease doctors on staff at the hospital.  The CDC is located very close to the hospital and CDC staff will be available to help the physicians at Emory.

Vaccines and other treatments

The National Institute of Health will begin testing an Ebola vaccine in September of this year.  This is not the first Ebola vaccine that has been tried.

Thomas Geisbert, Ph.D. has developed a vaccine that has shown promise in protecting non-human primates against Ebola.  Additionally, this vaccine also has shown some positive results when given to monkeys after they have been infected by Ebola when they are still in the early stages of the disease.  The majority of vaccines only work well if given weeks in advance.  That allows the vaccine to stimulate the patient’s immune system to make antibodies that can attack the disease if he becomes infected.

Geisbert and his team, are also working on two other, non-vaccine methods of treating Ebola.  One makes use of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) linked to lipid nano particles.  This was very effective when tested in rhesus monkeys.

Research is also taking place on using a slightly different approach.  These investigators are making a vaccine that is raised in genetically altered plants.

But, even if vaccine testing begins soon and gives promising results, it will still take time to get it into use.  So it wouldn’t be helpful in the near future.  The same holds true for the other possible treatment methods.  Additional time will be needed before they would be available as possible treatments or preventative medications.


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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