Americans who contracted Ebola in Liberia released from Atlanta hospital

Kent Brantly, one of two American Ebola patients who have recovered from the virus, said he is “forever thankful to God for sparing my life.” (Reuters)

American doctor Kent Brantly and North Carolina missionary Nancy Writebol, both of whom contracted Ebola while treating infected Liberian patients, have been released from an Atlanta hospital. Writebol was discharged from Emory University Hospital on Tuesday and Brantly was released on Thursday.

“Today is a miraculous day,” Brantly said at an Emory news conference. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family.”

Both Writebol and Brantly underwent rigorous blood and urine tests to ensure that the virus was no longer present.

“The medical staff is confident that the discharge of both patients from this hospital poses no public health threat,” said Bruce Ribner, medical director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit, who led the team that treated both patients.

The Texas doctor appeared near death weeks ago after contracting the disease, which has killed 1,350 people in the four African nations affected by the contagion. He was flown back to the United States from Liberia in a special transport plane that included an isolation unit and arrived at Emory on Aug. 2.

Days later, Writebol, a missionary from Charlotte, N.C., was flown to Atlanta in the same “air ambulance.” Her ride from the airport to Emory University Hospital was covered live by television news helicopters.

In a desperate effort to save them, both patients received an experimental treatment called ZMapp while they were still in Liberia. The unproven treatment appeared to help both patients.

Brantly had traveled to Liberia as part of an aid mission with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian humanitarian organization that has treated numerous patients in the West African country hardest hit by Ebola’s spread.

“Today I join all of our Samaritan’s Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly’s recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital,” Samaritan’s Purse president Franklin Graham said in a statement. “Over the past few weeks I have marveled at Dr. Brantly’s courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital.”

The organization currently has 350 staff members in Liberia, many of them working to battle the growing outbreak there, the group said.

“Thank you for your prayers,” Brantly wrote in a statement last week. “Please continue to pray for and bring attention to those suffering in the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa. Their fight is far from over.”

Writebol was working with her husband at a hospital in Liberia through a different global ministry group, SIM. The couple reunited at Emory earlier this week after David Writebol completed a 21-day observation period.

“Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition,” Writebol’s husband, David, said in a statement released through SIM on Thursday. “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.”

Currently, there are no approved treatments or vaccine to treat the deadly Ebola disease, which kills 60 to 90 percent of patients who contract it.

[This post has been updated.]

Terrence McCoy writes on foreign affairs for The Washington Post's Morning Mix. Follow him on Twitter here.
Abby Phillip is a general assignment national reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at abby.phillip@washpost.com. On Twitter: @abbydphillip
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