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Missionaries, Children Quarantined In Charlotte

Robert Lahser
Charlotte Observer

Several American missionaries serving in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak are now in Charlotte. They're healthy, but they'll remain in quarantine as a precaution.

A chartered flight from Liberia touched down at Charlotte-Douglas airport late Sunday night. Three missionaries were on board who are part of SIM, a Christian organization based here in Charlotte.

SIM President Bruce Johnson says before anyone got off the plane, a Mecklenburg County nurse boarded it and double checked the missionaries' health.

"When that nurse gave the all clear, the three departed from the aircraft then came to our vehicles, SIM vehicles," he said in a press conference. "We drove them onto our property and said welcome to your new home."

That new home consists of RVs in a secluded, roughly 60-acre section of SIM's campus in south Charlotte, which is right across the street from Carowinds amusement park.

The three new arrivals join two other missionaries and six children who returned from Liberia about a week ago. None of them show any symptoms of Ebola, but Mecklenburg County Medical Director Dr. Stephen Keener says they're being quarantined just in case.

"It takes about eight to 10 days for a person who's exposed to the virus to become ill," he said. "However, the longest reported incubation period is 21 days."

That's how long they'll stay in quarantine. But Dr. Keener says if you're thinking of biohazard suits and gas masks, you've got the wrong idea.

Ebola does not spread through the air - you have to come into contact with an infected person's blood or other bodily fluids. The people in quarantine are staying three feet away from others. But beyond that, Dr. Keener says they basically have free rein.    

Credit Robert Lahser / Charlotte Observer
Charlotte Observer
SIM USA President Bruce Johnson, left, and Dr. Stephen Keener, director of Mecklenburg County Health Dept., speak during a news conference on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014 at SIM USA headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. Three missionaries who worked with patients infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia are back in the United States and feeling upbeat after their trans-Atlantic charter flight, the head of the North Carolina-based mission hosting them said Monday.

  "There's plenty of room for people to go out and take a walk," he said. "I want to emphasize, again, quarantine is not locking somebody up in a house but rather providing a distance from other people."

For that reason, SIM President Johnson says he's exchanged air hugs with the missionaries and kids. He says they're staying upbeat. 

"We have movie night," he said. "We've got some games that we play. They've got some badminton, so they've got plenty of activities that they're enjoying together."

One of the missionaries is David Writebol. He's the husband of Nancy Writebol, who became infected with Ebola in Liberia and is currently receiving treatment at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

Johnson says that David plans to join his wife as soon as his quarantine is over.