The patients will stop in Marietta on their way to be treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
County commissioner and Delta pilot Bob Ott said there’s no need to worry about the safety of allowing the plane to land in Cobb while carrying infected passengers.
“This is a unique situation, and so it’s a specially-trained crew on the plane — it’s called a Medevac,” Ott said. “There will be an isolation unit taken over to Africa, and the patients loaded into that unit and put on the plane, and then it will land and they will presumably take that unit to Emory.”
Ott said the pilots will not have to receive special training to carry the Ebola patients because there will be doctors and nurses onboard to take care of the unit. He added he would have no problem with flying a plane carrying patients infected with Ebola.
“I give all the medical (team) and pilot personal credit for doing that because they could potentially save those people’s lives by getting them over here for better treatment,” Ott said.
The Pentagon’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Department of Defense personnel who will operate the plane will not have any contact with the patients.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance on the safe transport and care of patients with infectious diseases,” Kirby said. “The patients will be escorted throughout by specially and frequently trained teams that have sufficient resources to transport the patients so that there is no break in their medical care or exposure to others.”
The two people infected with the virus are Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol. They worked for U.S. missionary groups and are in serious condition in Liberia, according to the North Carolina-based charity Samaritan’s Purse, which is paying for their evacuation and medical care.
The two will be flown separately on a private charter aircraft with the help of the State Department and the DOD. The first flight will land at Dobbins on Monday, said doctors at Emory hospital, and the second will arrive later next week.
The aircraft is a Gulfstream jet fitted with a collapsible clear tent designed to house a single patient and stop any infectious germs from escaping. It was built to transfer CDC employees exposed to contagious diseases.
It will be the first time anyone infected with the disease is brought into the country. Ebola is not spread in the air, but only through direct contact with blood or other bodily fluids from an infected person.
Tyler Pearson, spokesman for WellStar Health System, said even though WellStar’s hospitals have no expectation of seeing patients with Ebola, they are prepared.
“All of our (emergency room) personnel have infectious disease training,” Pearson said. “They actually just did re-training on Ebola recently, so they could be prepared on this.”
Pearson said each WellStar hospital has someone trained in treating infectious diseases who can direct treatment for the patient.
Brantly and Writebol will be taken to Emory after arriving in Marietta.
The Emory isolation unit has two beds, a hospital spokeswoman said. It opened 12 years ago and was designed to handle CDC workers if they became infected while working on an infectious germ.
There is no specific treatment for the disease, although Writebol has already received an experimental treatment from a team of Emory doctors who are already in Liberia, according to the mission groups.
“If there’s any modern therapy that can be done,” such as better monitoring of fluids, electrolytes and vital signs, workers will be able to do it better in this safe environment, said Dr. Philip Brachman, an Emory University public health specialist who for many years headed the CDC’s disease detectives program.
“That’s all we can do for such a patient. We can make them feel comfortable” and let the body try to beat back the virus, he said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.