ATLANTA (AP) - 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.
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FOX 5 has several crews working this story, and we will follow details closely throughout the day. Statement from SIM about the release of Nancy Writebol
Nancy Writebol, the SIM missionary stricken with Ebola Virus Disease and undergoing treatment in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, has tested clear of the virus and was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 19. She and her husband, David, have gone to an undisclosed location to rest and spend time with one another.
Writebol is one of two patients treated for Ebola virus infection at Emory. The second patient, Kent Brantly, MD, is being discharged today.
“After a rigorous course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others,” Bruce Ribner, MD, director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit, said at a press conference today.
Criteria for the patients' discharges were based on blood and urine diagnostic tests and standard infectious disease protocols. Emory said its medical team maintained its extensive safety procedures throughout the treatment process and is confident the discharge of the patients poses no public health threat.
“The Emory Healthcare team is extremely pleased with Dr. Brantly's and Mrs. Writebol's recovery, and was inspired by their spirit and strength, as well as by the steadfast support of their families,” said Ribner.
The following statement was made by Nancy Writebol's husband, David, today:
“Nancy joined the ranks of a small, but hopefully growing number of survivors of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) when she walked out of the Emory University Hospital Isolation Unit on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 19. She had been in isolation fighting the disease since July 26. Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition. Thus, we decided it would be best to leave the hospital privately to be able to give her the rest and recuperation she needs at this time.
“During the course of her fight, Nancy recalled the dark hours of fear and loneliness, but also a sense of the deep abiding peace and presence of God, giving her comfort. She 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.
“We wish to give our word of thanks to Dr. Ribner and the staff at Emory University Hospital for their kind dedication to Nancy's care during her stay. We also give our thanks to the SIM doctors and the Samaritan's Purse team in Liberia for their loving and tireless care for Nancy. We thank God for these and so many others whom God used to bring Nancy back from the brink of death. It is hoped that the things the doctors and researchers have learned as a result of Nancy's illness will be applied to the saving of many lives.”
“Nancy and David are taking a long, well-deserved break of peace and quiet to reflect on all that has transpired over the past four to five weeks, all that God has done, and seeking how God will lead them in future paths of service, “ said Bruce Johnson, president, SIM USA. “The courageous, humble, faith-filled spirit of the Writebols is a testament to the same calling and commitment of the thousands of their co-workers in SIM from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America.”
Writebol was serving with her husband at SIM's ELWA mission campus in Monrovia, Liberia, when she and Brantly contracted Ebola. Brantly was serving at the ELWA Hospital as part of a cooperative work between SIM and Samaritan's Purse. After treatment in Liberia, both were flown to Atlanta and admitted to Emory University Hospital, where they underwent additional treatment.
David Writebol was flown to Charlotte from Liberia on Aug. 10 and completed his 21-day precautionary health watch on Aug. 16.
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