By BosNewsLife News Center with additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
MONROVIA/ATLANTA (BosNewsLife)– Two American Christian missionaries were being discharged from a U.S. hospital Thursday, August 21, after being treated with an experimental drug for the potentially deadly Ebola virus.
Doctor Kent Brantly and fellow missionary Nancy Writebol caught Ebola while serving on a joint team treating Ebola victims in Liberia. They were treated with ZMapp, a trial drug used on a handful of patients in the West African outbreak after being flown to the United States earlier this month.
Dr. Brantly was released Thursday from Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, said his charity Samaritan’s Purse. Writebol was discharged Tuesday, her aid group Serving in Mission (SIM) added.
Their release poses no public health risk, Dr. Bruce Ribner of Emory University Hospital stressed. Dr. Kent Brantly, 33, and Nancy Writebol, 59, showed 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,” Brantly told reporters. Writebol’s husband said in statement emailed by 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 reportedly 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.”
FLOWN TO US
Brantly was flown out of the west African nation of Liberia on August 2, and Writebol followed August 5. The two were infected while working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia’s capital.
Their release has raised some hope for other Ebola patients, though health officials say availability of the ZMapp drug remains scarce. The discharge of the two Christians also followed weeks of calls for prayers, BosNewsLife monitored.
“We thank God that [Dr Brantly and missionary Writebol] are alive and now have access to the best care in the world,” said Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, in earlier remarks.
Dr. Brantly comes from Fort Worth, Texas, and is married with two young children Writebol is a long-time married missionary from Charlotte, North Carolina.
Dr. Brantly’s wife and children had been living with him in Liberia but flew home to the U.S. before he started showing any signs of illness, Samaritan’s Purse stressed.
Before Thursday’s announcement, there was no known cure for Ebola. The disease begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhea as well as internal and external bleeding.
The two American Christians infected with Ebola are among the few patients who survive.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the death toll from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now at least 1,350 people.
WHO figures on Wednesday, August 20, showed that the deaths are mounting fastest in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the deaths.
The virus is spread by direct contact with blood or bodily fluids from a sick person. Ebola can’t be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air, according to health experts.
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