As an environmental health and safety professional who has written a book about “bloodborne pathogens,” such as the Ebola virus, I read with both interest and alarm Bruce Carrol’s post, No concerns here: Ebola patients headed to Georgia.

Shortly after writing that book, I was hired by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta to present a safety training program. While I was there, I was privileged to tour their containment facilities, which were highly impressive. The personnel in charge of running those facilities were also (and remain), highly trained, very professional, and have well placed pride in their innovative and protective measures.

I would like to give you an idea of what goes into a BioSafety Level 4 Containment Facility, to which the Ebola-infected Americans are being sent:

  • The use of a positive pressure personnel suit, with a segregated air supply, is mandated.
  • Entrances and exits  contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the biohazard.
  • Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors from opening at the same time.
  • Members of the laboratory staff have extremely thorough training in handling extremely hazardous infectious agents, and have already had much experience in handling lower hazard biological agents.
  • The containment facility is either in a separate building or in a controlled area within a building, which is completely isolated from all other areas of the building.

For the very interested Legal Insurrection fan, more information is given here.

In other words, if I were an American infected with Ebola, this is where I would want to be sent. The most knowledgeable medical experts on exotic infectious diseases are there and this facility is best equipped to stop the spread of the pathogen to anyone else.

And, as an American citizen, this the CDC facility is the best place in the country for anyone the disease to be sent so that its spread can be rapidly contained.

As someone versed in biosafety issues, I understand the concerns expressed in Legal Insurrection reader comments. Yes, the ongoing VA hospital scandal makes us question government-run healthcare. However, the biggest problem with the VA is its bureaucrats. The professionals at the Emory University hospital, however, are on the frontlines of the battle against infectious disease and aren’t going to cut corners and fake numbers. It would death to do so.

Also, while there have been very concerning incidents with anthrax and H5N1 strain of influenza, the CDC has been very aggressive in its handling of these situations. Given the terrible consequences of Ebola infection and the public fears associated with the largest outbreak of the disease in history, strict biosafety protocol will be the order of the day for handling our fellow Americans now suffering from the disease.

Another reason to be heartened by the fact that the Americans are now at the Georgia facility is that it allows medical professionals to develop treatments and work on ways to vanquish the pathogen.

As for the American health care workers, one possibility is that Writebol was given a concentrated form of antibodies to the virus from someone who survived, Schaffner said. To make such a treatment, researchers would have to separate and concentrate the antibodies from a survivor’s blood.

If Writebol did receive such an immune serum, it would almost certainly have to have been created at the site of the outbreak, and have come from someone infected with the same strain of Ebola that she has, said Thomas Geisbert, a virologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, who has helped develop potential Ebola drugs.(There are several species of Ebola virus; the current outbreak is caused by one called the Zaire species.)

Brantly is reportedly receiving a transfusion of whole blood from a 14-year-old patient who survived the disease.

I totally understand why many are skeptical of government statements of reassurance at this point. But, in terms of real-world disease risk assessment, I would like to offer news that is actually more worrisome. There are serious outbreaks of chickenpox among the illegal immigrants flooding into our nation:

The federal government’s new facility to house illegal immigrant families surging across the border has been put on lockdown because of chicken pox, with no immigrants allowed to be transferred in or out, a congressman said this week

Chickenpox can be a life-threatening disease, especially among adults who have never been infected. Many years ago, an acquaintance of mine died from contracting chickenpox at 26 (and which as complicated by her anorexia). In fact, one study over 12 years indicated there were 269 adult deaths.

In conclusion, if I had any advice to give those who want to do something to address their fears about infectious disease, I would ask them to channel those fears into effective action as to the infectious diseases that pose a substantial threat to public health.