When American Dr. Kent Brantly contracted Ebola in Liberia this summer, he was rushed overnight via air ambulance to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta — one of four facilities in the United States equipped to care for those with the highly contagious virus.
The other options were the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., and a biocontainment wing in Montana built for workers at a nearby federal laboratory that handles contagious diseases.
Since then, nine other Ebola patients have been treated in the U.S., primarily at those hospitals.
But if another Ebola patient needs care in the U.S., there will be more options.
The Department of Health and Human Services has announced that 35 hospitals in the United States are equipped, staffed and trained to handle Ebola patients.
The treatment centers, including four in Northern California, have 53 beds available for patients and have been assessed by the Centers for Disease Control's Rapid Ebola Preparedness team.
"As long as Ebola is spreading in West Africa, we must prepare for the possibility of additional cases in the United States," the CDC's director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, said in a statement.
Separately, Emory University announced Wednesday that an American healthcare worker was being transferred from West Africa to the hospital's serious communicable diseases unit for monitoring to see whether the worker had contracted Ebola. "We do not have a time of arrival and cannot share more details out of respect for patient privacy and in accordance with the patient's wishes," the university said in a statement.
Most of the 10 patients who have been treated in the U.S. were medical workers or missionaries who had volunteered in West Africa. Two were nurses who became infected in Texas while treating the first Ebola patient diagnosed on U.S. soil, Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan.
Since then, travelers from West Africa are monitored during the 21-day incubation period for Ebola.
About 1,400 people in 44 states who have returned from affected African countries in the last 21 days are still being actively monitored for the disease, CDC spokesman Jason McDonald said.
Those under monitoring have to report their temperatures and any symptoms consistent with Ebola to state or local health officials on a daily basis.
Of the 10 Ebola patients treated in the U.S., eight have recovered and two have died — Duncan and Dr. Martin Salia, who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and died at a Nebraska hospital in November.
With the new treatment facilities in place, more than 80% of travelers arriving in the U.S. from West Africa will now enter the country within 200 miles of a treatment center, officials said.
Additional facilities will be added in the next several weeks, McDonald said. Travelers who show signs of Ebola will be transported to these hospitals by ambulance.
The treatment centers have been designated by federal and state health officials as having the training and resources to provide complex treatment while minimizing risk to healthcare workers, according to the CDC.
The four hospitals in California are Kaiser Oakland Medical Center, Kaiser South Sacramento Medical Center, UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento and UC San Francisco Medical Center.
Other hospitals are located in Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.
The biocontainment unit at St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center in Missoula, Mont., was not among the 35 treatment centers on the government's list. A spokesman with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services referred questions to a hospital spokeswoman, who said she did not know why the hospital was not listed.
The news came as a Boston hospital announced that a patient admitted for evaluation had tested negative for Ebola but positive for malaria.
The individual had worked in a nonmedical capacity in Liberia and had been monitored by public health authorities when he returned, Massachusetts General Hospital spokesman Noah Brown said Wednesday. The patient was admitted with a fever Tuesday.
Further diagnostic testing is needed to definitively rule out Ebola, the hospital said, and the patient remains in an isolated area. Massachusetts General is not on the CDC's list of Ebola treatment centers.