Some of the colleagues of one of the American aid workers stricken with the deadly Ebola virus while working in west Africa will be returning to the USA.
SIM USA, a Charlotte-based missionary group, announced on Sunday that some of its missionary staff based in Liberia are headed back to North Carolina. The returning workers are colleagues of Nancy Writebol, one of two American missionaries stricken with the virus while working in Liberia who are now being treated at Emory University in Atlanta.
The returning SIM USA staff worked with or around patients infected with Ebola, and North Carolina and Mecklenburg County officials are requiring a period of quarantine for the returning staff.
None of the returning staff members is sick or has symptoms of Ebola infection, according to SIM USA.
"SIM USA has been working closely with international, national, state and local public health officials since this most recent outbreak of Ebola in Western Africa began," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA. "We will continue to cooperate and collaborate with them and adhere strictly to their guidelines in the return of our missionaries to the United States."
The returning missionaries will be quarantined for 21 days, according to Stephen Keener, the Mecklenburg County Medical Director. The quarantine period is based on what is longest duration of incubation of the Ebola virus.The average incubation period is 8-10 days, while the range is 2-21 days.
"This measure is being taken out of an abundance of caution, and it is important to remember that there are no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in North Carolina," Keener said.
The group, citing privacy concerns, would not reveal travel details for the returning staff members.
On Friday, Writebol's husband and fellow SIM USA missionary, David Writebol, reported that his wife was "upbeat" after having an extended visit with her sons.
A top World Health Organization Official said on Sunday that 1,825 cases of the virus have been reported so far and more than 900 deaths. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director general of health security, said in an interview on CBS' Face the Nation that the outbreak--which has been centered on Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria—can be controlled and called on the international community to "scale up" its response.
At the same time, he suggested that a rise in the death toll is inevitable.
"If we continue to have cases then we will continue to have people dying from this disease," Fukuda said. "This is a severe infection, so we expect both numbers to increase over the coming weeks."
Meanwhile, officials in Saudi Arabia announced that initial lab results show that a 40-year-old man who returned to that country after visiting Sierra Leone did not have the Ebola virus.
The Saudi national died Wednesday in a hospital isolation ward in the Saudi coastal city of Jiddah after showing symptoms of the viral hemorrhagic fever. He was the only suspected Ebola case in the kingdom and had just returned from a trip to affected Sierra Leone.
But the Saudi health officials said late Saturday that samples submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back negative for the Ebola virus, adding that samples were also sent for testing to a laboratory in Germany.
Contributing: Associated Press