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Why Ebola Patients Are Getting Treated in Nebraska

Scott Neuman | NPR   in 
October 6, 2014

Freelance journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who contracted Ebola in Liberia, arrived at the University of Nebraska Medical Center today, becoming the second patient with the deadly disease to be treated there.

Why is he being sent to Nebraska instead of some other facility? Because the hospital is home to the largest of four high-level biocontainment patient care units in the U.S.

The Nebraska Medical Center says the unit was commissioned in 2005 as a joint project with Nebraska Health and Human Services and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“It was designed to provide the first line of treatment for people affected by bio terrorism or extremely infectious naturally occurring diseases,” the center’s website says.

“The Ebola virus is very difficult to contract,” says Dr. Phil Smith, medical director of the unit, on its website. “The risk it would pose to people outside the unit would be zero, and this is something that can be very safely treated without infecting health care workers.”

The three other high-level biocontainment facilities in the U.S. are at St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula, Mont., the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where two infected patients were treated this summer.

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