Ebola Patient to Be Flown to U.S. for Treatment
Unnamed individual will be cared for in specially designed isolation unit, Atlanta hospital says
"You treat the things that are failing," Norman said. "If a person is dehydrated, you treat them with IV fluid support. If a person has respiratory failure, you put them on a ventilator."
As the disease progresses, the impact in terms of illness is "additive," Norman noted. "Every time you add another organ system that's failing, a person's chance of survival goes down exponentially."
The human body responds to this multiple-pronged attack by initiating a massive and intense inflammatory response -- which actually adds to the damage being done, Hirsch noted.
"It's a combination of the viral destruction and the inflammation that takes place in response that's so life-threatening to us," he said.
Ebola's ravages are such that even young, healthy patients, who usually can fight off most serious illnesses, have a high death rate, explained Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious diseases specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
Pumping fluids into patients remains the best front-line treatment for Ebola, to limit the damage caused by inflammation, Hirsch said.
Beyond that, doctors must pay close attention to the patient and be ready to treat whatever organs are on the verge of failure, Hirsch and Norman said.
It doesn't sound like much, but this basic care can dramatically enhance chances of survival.
"If you look at the overall statistics, the mortality rate is around 50 to 60 percent, but if you get out into remote areas the mortality rate increases to around 90 percent," Norman said. "I think that reflects the fact that if more care is given and care is given early, the more survival improves."
On Thursday, the CDC issued a travel warning for the West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.
The "Level 3 travel advisory" urges that all non-essential travel to the affected countries -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- be avoided.
"The bottom line is that Ebola is worsening in West Africa," CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told reporters in a press briefing.
He said the travel advisory will allow those countries to focus on the outbreaks without worrying about new people coming into the region, while keeping air travel open to people who are headed to the countries to provide medical aid.