This is an isolation room at Emory University Hospital set up to treat patients exposed to certain infectious diseases. (AP Photo)
ATLANTA (AP) -
Emory's isolation unit for infectious diseases was created 12 years ago to handle doctors who get sick at the CDC, just up the hill in Midtown Atlanta. It is one of about four in the country, equipped with everything necessary to test and treat 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.
Family members are kept outside. The unit "has a plate glass window and communication system, so they'll be as close as 1-2 inches from each other," Ribner said.
Dr. Jay Varkey, an infectious disease specialist will be treating the Ebola patients.
Medical Writers Mike Stobbe and Marilynn Marchione reported from New York and Milwaukee. Video journalists Ron Harris and Alex Sanz in Atlanta contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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