Health worsens for two U.S. aid workers infected with Ebola

WINSTON-SALEM N.C. Thu Jul 31, 2014 4:32pm EDT

Dr. Kent Brantly (R) speaks with colleagues at the case management center on the campus of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia in this undated handout photograph courtesy of Samaritan's Purse.  REUTERS/Samaritan's Purse/Handout via Reuters

Dr. Kent Brantly (R) speaks with colleagues at the case management center on the campus of ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia in this undated handout photograph courtesy of Samaritan's Purse.

Credit: Reuters/Samaritan's Purse/Handout via Reuters

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WINSTON-SALEM N.C. (Reuters) - The health conditions of a U.S. physician and a missionary who contracted Ebola while helping fight an outbreak of the disease that has claimed more than 700 lives in West Africa have worsened, two relief organizations said on Thursday.

Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol are in "stable but grave condition" in Liberia as they battle the deadly virus, according to North Carolina-based Christian relief groups Samaritan's Purse and SIM.

Brantly and Writebol were serving in Monrovia, Liberia, as part of a joint team from the two relief organizations. There is no known cure for Ebola. In the final stages, its symptoms include external bleeding, internal bleeding, vomiting and diarrhea. The fatality rate in the current epidemic is running at around 60 percent.

Writebol, 59, is being given an experimental drug that doctors hope will improve her health, SIM said.

"Even though her condition has worsened, we know she is receiving the best possible medical care, and we are thankful that she has access to this experimental drug," said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA.

Brantly, 33, received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who survived Ebola with the help of Brantly's medical care, said evangelist Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse.

"The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor who saved his life," Graham said in a statement.

Brantly's wife and two children had returned to Texas before he displayed symptoms of the disease, health officials have said. Ebola is not contagious until symptoms that also include fever and headache occur.

The two relief groups said they were evacuating all nonessential personnel from Liberia as the virus spreads.

Because of the contagious nature of the disease, Writebol's husband David, a fellow missionary, is able to visit her only through a window or wearing a protective suit, SIM said.

The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has killed 729 people out of 1,323 infected since February, the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

The U.S. Peace Corps has said it was pulling all 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea due to the worsening conditions, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued an advisory against non-essential travel to the three countries.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Will Dunham)

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