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Atlanta Hospital Deemed One of Safest for Ebola Care

  • An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT

    An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT

  • An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT

    An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT

  • This handout photo provided Friday, August, 1, 2014, by Emory University, shows the isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases and where an American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated at Emory University Hospital. (AP Photo/Emory University, Jack Kearse)

    This handout photo provided Friday, August, 1, 2014, by Emory University, shows the isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases and where an American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated at Emory University Hospital. (AP Photo/Emory University, Jack Kearse)

  • A plane taxies after arriving at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta., Ga., Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Officials at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta expect an American who is infected with the Ebola virus to be transported for treatment today. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

    A plane taxies after arriving at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta., Ga., Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Officials at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta expect an American who is infected with the Ebola virus to be transported for treatment today. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • This handout photo provided Friday, August, 1, 2014, by Emory University, shows the isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases and where an American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated at Emory University Hospital. (AP Photo/Emory University, Jack Kearse)

    This handout photo provided Friday, August, 1, 2014, by Emory University, shows the isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases and where an American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated at Emory University Hospital. (AP Photo/Emory University, Jack Kearse)

  • An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT
  • An ambulance arrives with Ebola victim Dr. Kent Brantly, right, to Emory University Hospital, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Atlanta. Brantly, infected with the Ebola virus in Africa arrived in Atlanta for treatment Saturday, landing in a specially equipped plane at a military base, then being whisked away to one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country, officials say. (AP Photo/WSB-TV Atlanta) METRO ATLANTA TV OUT
  • This handout photo provided Friday, August, 1, 2014, by Emory University, shows the isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases and where an American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated at Emory University Hospital. (AP Photo/Emory University, Jack Kearse)
  • A plane taxies after arriving at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta., Ga., Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Officials at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta expect an American who is infected with the Ebola virus to be transported for treatment today. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
  • This handout photo provided Friday, August, 1, 2014, by Emory University, shows the isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases and where an American aid worker infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner said Friday two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus in Africa will be treated at Emory University Hospital. (AP Photo/Emory University, Jack Kearse)

Atlanta — The Ebola virus has killed more than 700 people in Africa and could have catastrophic consequences if allowed to spread, world health officials say. So why would anyone allow infected Americans to come to Atlanta?

The answer, experts say, is because Emory University Hospital is one of the safest places in the world to treat someone with Ebola. There’s virtually no chance the virus can spread from the hospital’s super-secure isolation unit.

And another thing, they say: medical workers risking their lives overseas deserve the best treatment they can get.

Dr. Kent Brantly became the first person infected with Ebola to be brought to the United States from Africa. He arrived Saturday at one of the nation’s best hospitals. Fellow aid worker Nancy Writebol was expected to arrive in several days.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NBC on Sunday that Brantly’s condition seems to have improved and that it was encouraging to see Brantly walk out of the ambulance unassisted when he arrived at the hospital.

Frieden said he understands the public’s concerns about Ebola, and the public health role is to ensure that the infection is not spread.

“Ebola is very deadly. And it’s normal to be scared of deadly diseases,” he said.

Few of those nearest the hospital Saturday seemed concerned.

“I just think it’s a blessing that we can help possibly make the infected person’s life a little more tolerable,” said Ashley Wheeler, who was shopping just down the street on Saturday. “If I were that person I would want my country to help me the best way they could.”

Emory’s infectious diseases’ unit was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC. It is one of about four in the country equipped with everything necessary to test, treat and contain people exposed to very dangerous viruses.

In 2005, it handled patients with SARS, which unlike Ebola can spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

In fact, the nature of Ebola — which is spread by close contact with bodily fluids and blood — means that any modern hospital using standard, rigorous, infection-control measures should be able to handle it.

Still, Emory won’t be taking any chances.

“Nothing comes out of this unit until it is non-infectious,” said Dr. Bruce Ribner, who will be treating the patients. “The bottom line is: We have an inordinate amount of safety associated with the care of this patient. And we do not believe that any health care worker, any other patient or any visitor to our facility is in any way at risk of acquiring this infection.”

Inside the unit, patients are sealed off from anyone who doesn’t wear protective gear.

“Negative air pressure” means air flows in, but can’t escape until filters scrub any germs from patients. All laboratory testing is conducted within the unit, and workers are highly trained in infection control. Glass walls enable staff outside to safely observe patients, and there’s a vestibule where workers suit up before entering. Any gear is safely disposed of or decontaminated.