RIPLEY, Tenn. — New numbers from the World Health Organization show the record-breaking Ebola outbreak in West Africa is getting worse.
The U.S. is getting ready to send medical professionals to the region to help curb the outbreak. The WHO reports there are now 1,600 cases, including as many as four in Nigeria. Nearly 900 people have died.
An American doctor who contracted the disease in Liberia is being treated in Atlanta and is said to be making progress.
Dr. Kent Brantly, who works for the North Carolina-based Christian organization “Samaritan’s Purse,” surprised many by actually walking to his specially designed isolated treatment room at Emory University Hospital.
And that doctor has a Mid-South connection: his uncle, David Snell, lives in Ripley, Tenn., and tells News Channel 3 the 33-year-old doctor is improving.
Snell believes prayers from the community are helping the man on his road to recovery.
“We were concerned. We knew that Kent was seeing Ebola patients in the hospital, ” said Snell.
Snell is the agency manager for Farm Bureau Insurance in Lauderdale County.
He admits the country of Liberia is worlds away from Ripley, but the deadly Ebola virus is now front and center in his mind after his nephew contracted the disease.
Snell said his family found out in July that Brantly had been exposed to the virus and tested positive.
“And we were pretty devastated, pretty alarmed. Because we knew from all reports that it was fatal, most of the time, a vast majority of the time,” said Snell.
Snell said Brantly isolated himself immediately and started getting treatment.
The doctor was flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta where the news about his recovery is encouraging.
“He seems to be improved. And that the doctors are cautiously optimistic about his condition,” said Snell.
Snell said Brantly’s wife and children left Liberia a few days before Kent got sick, so they were not infected.
The story of Kent’s fight with Ebola has rallied the congregation at Ripley Church of Christ where Snell is a member.
Pastor Justin Paschall said the call for prayer went out to members and they have responded.
“Prayer is that way that we petition God for the things that we need,” said Paschall.
Paschall said he’s the same age as Brantly and also has two children. He said the man’s strong faith is an example to others.
“To see him just step out”and be willing to really put his life on the line, has encouraged me. And I think it’s a story that has encouraged a lot of Americans,” said Paschall.
There is also a retired Tennessee doctor who has quarantined himself in his Morristown home. Just a week ago, he was treating Ebola patients in the same Liberian hospital where Brantly contracted the virus.
He said he doesn’t have any symptoms, but plans to say inside for 21 days.