Dr. Kent Brantly's release came two days after a second U.S.
missionary, Nancy Writebol, was quietly allowed to leave Emory
University Hospital, where both had been treated after contracting
the deadly virus in July while working for Christian organizations
They were each cleared for discharge from the hospital's isolation
unit after their symptoms eased and blood and urine tests showed no
evidence of the virus, a doctor who treated them said on Thursday.
The announcement of their release and expected full recovery from a
disease that has killed 1,350 people in West Africa prompted an
emotional scene in Atlanta. Hospital workers cheered, clapped and
cried as a thin but steady Brantly entered a news conference holding
his wife Amber's hand.
"Today is a miraculous day," said Brantly, a 33-year-old medical
missionary for the Christian relief group Samaritan's Purse. "I am
thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family."
Brantly thanked the health teams at Emory and in Liberia for their
care "during the most difficult experience of my life," recalling
how he grew sicker each day before being evacuated to the United
States earlier this month.
"I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for
any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa
in the midst of this epidemic," he said.
Writebol did not attend. The 59-year-old from Charlotte, North
Carolina, left the hospital on Tuesday and was resting in an
undisclosed location with her husband, Christian mission group SIM
USA said in a statement.
The couple was smiling and hugging in photos released by the
organization on Thursday, but Nancy Writebol endured "dark hours of
fear and loneliness" during the course of her fight, her husband
"Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle
have left her in a significantly weakened condition," her husband,
fellow missionary David Writebol, said in a statement. "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."
QUESTIONS LINGER ABOUT EXPERIMENTAL DRUG
Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of the infectious disease unit at
Emory's hospital, credited aggressive supportive care and the fact
that both Brantly and Writebol were healthy and well-nourished with
helping them recover.
The pair received an experimental therapy called ZMapp, a cocktail
of antibodies made by tiny California biotech Mapp
Biopharmaceutical. Health experts cautioned against declaring the
drug a medical breakthrough based on two patients.
"The honest answer is we have no idea," Ribner said, when asked if
the experimental drugs helped the missionaries' survival. He said
early studies in primates suggest the drug has few long-term side
[to top of second column]
The scale of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the largest in
history with 2,473 people infected and at least 1,350 dead, has
prompted a scramble for experimental drugs, most of which have only
been tested in monkeys and cell cultures.
Last week, the World Health Organization backed the use of untested
drugs and vaccines, but the scarcity of supplies has raised
questions about who gets the treatments.
ZMapp was also given to a third patient, a Spanish priest, who has
now died from his infection, as well as two doctors in Liberia and a
nurse. Sources in Liberia told the WHO that two of those patients
have shown marked improvement following their treatment.
But about 50 percent of people survive Ebola anyway, even under poor
medical conditions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National
Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease at the National
Institutes of Health, said on MSNBC on Thursday.
"I'd say we have a couple of people who've recovered, they've gotten
excellent medical care and the specific therapy, ZMapp ... may have
had a role in it but we don't know," Fauci said.
Scientists who have studied Ebola say the virus can remain in
certain areas of the body, including the eyes and seminal fluid, for
seven to eight weeks after recovery.
Ribner said Brantly and Writebol were released in consultation with
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pose no
health risk to the public.
Brantly, the father of two young children, said he planned to spend
time in private with his family after more than a month apart.
(Additional reporting by Joe Bavier in Abidjan, Daniel Flynn in
Dakar, Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago and Susan Heavey in Washington;
Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Louise Ireland, Bill Trott,
Susan Heavey and Eric Walsh)
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