ATLANTA – After nearly three weeks of treatment, the two American aid workers who were infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Africa have been discharged from an Atlanta hospital, officials said Thursday.
Their release poses no public health risk, Dr. Bruce Ribner of Emory University Hospital stressed. Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol, 59, show no evidence of Ebola, and generally patients do not relapse and they are not contagious once they’ve recovered, said Ribner, director of the hospital’s infectious disease unit.
At a news conference, Brantly, standing with his wife, said, “Today is a miraculous day.”
“I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family. As a medical missionary I never imagined myself in this position,” said Brantly, who was released Thursday. Nancy Writebol, 59, was released Tuesday, and her husband said in statement emailed by aid group SIM that that she is free of the virus but in a weakened condition and was recuperating at an undisclosed location.
Brantly choked up several times while thanking his aid group, North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, and the Emory medical team. The couple hugged the medical staff and joked with them. Several blinked back tears, then cheered and applauded as Brantly and his wife made their way from the room. Brantly said he and his family would be going away as he continues to recover.
In his statement, David Writebol said his wife “was greatly encouraged knowing that there were so many people around the world lifting prayers to God for her return to health. Her departure from the hospital, free of the disease, is powerful testimony to God’s sustaining grace in time of need.”
Brantly was flown out of the west African nation of Liberia on Aug. 2, and Writebol followed Aug. 5. The two were infected while working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia’s capital.
Brantly and Writebol received an experimental treatment called Zmapp, but it’s not known whether the drug helped or whether they improved on their own, as has happened to others who have survived the disease. The treatment is so novel that it hasn’t been tested in people.
The limited supply of Zmapp also was tried in a Spanish missionary priest, who died, and three Liberian health care workers, who are said to be improving.
The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 1,300 people across West Africa. There is no proven treatment or vaccine. Patients are given basic supportive care to keep them hydrated, maintain their blood pressure and treat any complicating infections. Ebola is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick people experiencing symptoms.
On Thursday in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, calm set in one day after residents in a slum that was sealed off in an effort to contain the outbreak clashed with riot police and soldiers. World Health Organization officials were visiting two hospitals that are treating Ebola patients and struggling to keep up with the influx of patients.
The death toll is rising most quickly in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the fatalities, the WHO said. At least 2,473 people have been sickened across West Africa — more than the caseloads of all the previous two-dozen Ebola outbreaks combined.