A Texas doctor who weeks ago entered an Atlanta hospital in a full-body biohazard suit to be treated for Ebola said on Thursday he was “thrilled to be alive” as doctors declared him virus-free and safe for release.
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 organisations in Liberia.
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 organisation on Thursday, but Nancy Writebol endured “dark hours of fear and loneliness” during the course of her fight, her husband said.
“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.”
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.
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.