by: Alexa Ashwell Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Health officials in Mecklenburg County said Monday that an Ebola patient could be isolated and treated at a Charlotte hospital if needed.
Eight missionaries who recently were in Liberia, one of the Ebola-affected countries, are currently being monitored at the SIM campus in south Charlotte. Mecklenburg County Health Department Director Dr. Marcus Plescia said he was notified of the plan for them to come on Friday.
"I think monitoring them is perfectly appropriate," said Plescia. "SIM so far is going above and beyond."
Although the missionaries are still within the 21-day incubation period that exists for the Ebola virus, none has shown any symptoms. The virus can only be spread when symptoms show.
Health officials said the missionaries are free to leave the SIM campus but believe it’s safer if they remain.
Plescia said several area hospitals could isolate and care for an Ebola patient if one of the eight missionaries began showing symptoms.
"We have state-of-the-art medical facilities in Charlotte," said Plescia. "This is another thing that the public should take comfort in."
Emory Hospital in Atlanta is currently caring for Dr. Kent Brantly, one of two Americans infected with the virus. Nancy Writebol, a Charlotte missionary also dealing with the virus, is set to arrive at Emory on Tuesday.
Emory has a specialized isolation unit created 12 years ago to help treat doctors from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who have fallen ill. It is one of four facilities in the United States and is believed to be the safest for containing Ebola.
Although there is no such facility in Charlotte, health officials believe the virus could be contained at area hospitals.
"This is pretty routine infection control that needs to be applied to a situation like this," said Plescia.
The Centers for Disease Control announced Monday that roughly a half-dozen Americans have been tested for Ebola since the current outbreak began.