NEW YORK – An American doctor infected with the Ebola virus was the first to be flown to the U.S. for treatment and was expected to arrive Saturday in Atlanta, a missionary group said.

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of two seriously ill American aid workers who will be treated at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, had left West Africa, said Samaritan’s Purse missionary group spokesman Todd Shearer. Brantly was transported by a private jet outfitted with a special, portable tent designed for moving patients. The jet made a fuel stop at Bangor International Airport Saturday at about 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Tony Caruso, director of the Bangor airport, said the plane made a routine 45-minute stop to refuel. He said no one exited the plane.

“The passengers and everyone stay on board while customs does its clearance,” said Caruso.

Bangor airport is the first major American airport on the eastern seaboard. International flights can refuel at Bangor, also the site of unscheduled landings to deplane unruly passengers.

The airplane was bound for Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta.

From there, the doctor will be whisked into one of the most sophisticated hospital isolation units in the country at the hospital about 15 miles away. The second patient will follow a few days later, the hospital has said.

Outside Emory, a gaggle of about 20 members of the media had gathered to chronicle the arrival. There was no noticeable police presence and all roads were open. It will be the first time anyone infected with the disease is brought into the country. U.S. officials are confident the patients can be treated without putting the public in any danger.

The specialized unit at Emory University Hospital was opened a dozen years ago to care for federal health workers exposed to some of the world’s most dangerous germs. Health experts say a specialized isolation unit, though, is not needed for treating an Ebola patient. The virus does not spread through the air, so standard, rigorous infection control measures should work at any hospital.

Now it’s being pressed into service for the two seriously ill Americans who worked at a hospital in Liberia, one of the three West Africa countries hit by the largest Ebola outbreak in history.

The Emory hospital unit is located just down a hill from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is one of about four such units around the country for testing and treating people infected with dangerous, infectious germs.

The unit has its own laboratory equipment so samples don’t have to be sent to the main hospital lab. Located on the ground floor, it’s carefully separated from other patient areas, said Dr. Eileen Farnon, a Temple University doctor who formerly worked at the CDC and led teams investigating past Ebola outbreaks in Africa.

The two Americans – Brantly and Nancy Writebol – worked for U.S. aid groups Samaritan’s Purse and SIM at a Liberian hospital that treated Ebola patients. Late last week, the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse said Brantly, 33, had been diagnosed with Ebola. Then, Writebol’s infection was disclosed. Samaritan’s Purse paid for Brantly’s trip.

The government is working to ensure that any Ebola-related evacuations “are carried out safely, thereby protecting the patient and the American public,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement released Friday.

Ebola is considered one of the world’s deadliest diseases. The current outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone has sickened more than 1,300 people and killed more than 700 this year.

The virus is spread through direct contact with blood, urine, saliva and other bodily fluids from an infected person. It is not spread through the air so it is not as infectious as a germ like the flu.

The Americans will travel on a Gulfstream jet fitted with a collapsible, clear tent built to transfer CDC employees exposed to contagious diseases. The CDC said the private jet can only accommodate one patient at a time.

An Emory emergency medical team in Liberia has evaluated the two aid workers, and deemed both stable enough for the trip to Atlanta, said Emory’s Dr. Bruce Ribner.

“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.

There’s no specific treatment for Ebola so doctors try to ease the symptoms, which include fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. Some cases suffer severe bleeding.

Emory’s Ribner, one of the doctors who will be seeing the Ebola patients, stressed that safety precautions will be taken by staff.

“I have no concerns about even my personal health or the health of the other health care workers who will be working in that area,” Ribner said.

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