ATLANTA, Georgia (CBSDFW.COM) – A hospital in Atlanta is doing everything it can to save Dallas nurse Amber Vinson. Emory University Hospital has a great track record of successfully treating Ebola patients and keeping its staff safe. It doesn’t hurt that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is right next door.
CBS 11 News reporter J.D. Miles is in Atlanta and from outside the CDC had an exclusive look inside the agency working to eradicate Ebola.
The building has the security of a military base. And in many ways the hundreds of people who work there have been at war for years, fighting microscopic enemies like Ebola.
On a campus of nearly a dozen high-rise buildings, some of the most dangerous diseases known to man are stored and studied. CDC spokesman Tom Skinner named a few. “Anthrax. We do have the only remaining vials of smallpox.”
According to Skinner, even smallpox and AIDS haven’t tested the CDC as much as Ebola. “This is probably one of the biggest CDC responses in the history of the organization.”
To visitors, the CDC looks more like a small city than a laboratory. The health institute, formed 70 years ago, has preserved barrels that carry early samples of Ebola. They also have a handwritten notebook that belonged to a CDC doctor on the front line when Ebola first appeared in Africa 40 years ago. Back then the virus was rare, remote, and with a mortality rate of 88-percent, extremely deadly.
Some question whether the Ebola virus of yesteryear is the same one being battled today. “Our lab here in Atlanta is doing a lot of sequencing on the virus… to see if the virus is changing,” explained Skinner.
One thing that has definitely changed is the CDC standards on what caregivers should wear. The move came after the agency faced harsh criticism for the two Dallas nurses who became infected.
Skinner told CBS 11 that he understands the critics. “I think for the people of Dallas what they’re going through is really difficult.”
When asked about CDC growth opportunities relating to the infection of nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, Skinner said the use of protective gear is high on the list.
“The meticulous process of putting it on and taking it off is really hard and it takes a lot of practice,” Skinner said. “And if a healthcare worker and a hospital haven’t practiced a lot it’s going to be really difficult.”
The workers in Bethesda are probably the biggest reason why Ebola patients are taken there.
When dealing with a disease that is devastating West Africa and frightening the rest of the world, those at the specialized facilities in the U.S. offer not just care for patients, but the experience and practice of a medical staff that has keeping Ebola from spreading.
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