An American doctor treated for Ebola, Kent Brantly, was discharged from Atlanta's Emory University Hospital today. Another American aid worker, Nancy Writebol, was discharged Tuesday.
"God saved my life," said Brantly, looking gaunt, at a press conference Thursday, at which the room applauded his appearance. He thankied his medical team and the millions of people around the world praying for his recovery. "Please do not stop praying for the people of West Africa."
Bruce Ribner, medical director of the hospital's Infectious Disease Unit,said Brantly will go to an undisclosed location with his wife and children after the conference.
Brantly and Writebol, a volunteer with SIM USA, were flown to Emory from West Africa and were treated in the hospital's specialized unit.
Ribner said the hospital performed extensive tests on both patients and consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before deciding they were ready to be released. Neither pose any risk to the public, he said.
Both also received doses of an experimental drug, called Zmapp, which includes man-made antibodies against Ebola. Although Zmapp has shown promise in animals, it has not yet been tested in humans. Experts have said it's not possible to conclude that Zmapp cured their disease, although getting good supportive care at Emory, one of the world's best hospitals, likely improved their chances of survival.
"If the question is, 'Did Zmapp do this?' The answer is that we just don't know," says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. "People who are in much less sophtisticated medical care conditions in West Africa are recovering 50% of the time."
Without a carefully designed trial -- involving a comparison group that doesn't receive the drug -- doctors can't make conclusions about how a treatment works. About half of Ebola patients in the current outbreak are surviving without the experimental drug. But a Spanish priest who received Zmapp died, Fauci says.
Three Liberian health workers also received Zmapp. The drug's manufacturer, Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego, has said there is no more of the drug left.
According to CNN, two blood tests done over a two-day period had to come back negative for Ebola before Brantly could be discharged. David Writebol, Nancy's husband, was released from quarantine earlier this week. Doctors had observed him for three weeks, monitoring him for signs of fever. Ebola can have an incubation period of up to 21 days.
People generally aren't considered contagious unless they have symptoms of Ebola, such as fever.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent at least 50 staff to West Africa to help contain the epidemic.
"We must re-commit to doing all we can to increase their chances of survival and to stop the spread of Ebola," said CDC director Thomas Frieden in a statement. "This outbreak is unprecedented, and it's likely to get worse before it gets better. We must respond in unprecedented way to stop the outbreak as soon as possible."
Samaritan's Purse, the Christian humanitarian organization for which Brantly works, released this statement from its president, Franklin Graham, Thursday morning:
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. 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. His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all.
I know that Dr. Brantly and his wonderful family would ask that you please remember and pray for those in Africa battling, treating and suffering from Ebola. Those who have given up the comforts of home to serve the suffering and the less fortunate are in many ways just beginning this battle.
We have more than 350 staff in Liberia, and others will soon be joining them, so please pray for those who have served with Dr. Brantly -- along with the other doctors, aid workers and organizations that are at this very moment desperately trying to stop Ebola from taking any more lives.