UPDATE (1:01 p.m. EDT): Both Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are Ebola-free and spending time with their families. Brantly gave glory to God as he held his wife’s hand and walked out of an Atlanta hospital to loud cheers, as if they had just been married.
“Today is a miraculous day,” a thin but beaming Brantly told reporters in a prepared statement. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”
After nearly three weeks of treatment, the two aid workers infected with Ebola in Africa pose no public health risk, Dr. Bruce Ribner of Emory University Hospital stressed. “After a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing,” Ribner said, “we have determined … he can return to his family, his community, and his life without public health concerns.”
Nancy Writebol was released Tuesday, Ribner said. Emory officials honored her request to keep her release private. A statement from SIM, the aid group Writebol worked with, said she was resting with her husband at an undisclosed location. Brantly told reporters that “as [Writebol] walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, ‘To God be the glory.’”
About two dozen of Brantly’s doctors and nurses laughed and joked at the press conference, beaming with proud smiles. Several blinked back tears, and the couple gave them bear hugs.
“We are profoundly grateful to have the opportunity to have applied our training, our care, and our experience to meeting their needs,” Ribner said. “All of us who have worked with them have been impressed by their courage and determination. Their hope and faith have been an inspiration to all of us.”
Brantly and Writebol contracted the deadly disease the same week in late July at a mission hospital in Liberia. “As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day, I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness, and I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified,” Brantly said.
In a statement today, Writebol’s husband, 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.”
Brantly asked reporters and the public to respect his family’s privacy as they reunite after more than a month apart. He urged people to keep praying for him and for Africa. “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.
Ribner dispelled criticism that bringing Brantly and Writebol to the United States was a bad idea: “We cannot let our fears dictate our actions. We must all care.”
OUR EARLIER REPORT: Samaritan’s Purse missionary Dr. Kent Brantly has recovered from Ebola and will be released from the hospital Thursday.
Brantly and his family are expected to leave Emory University Hospital after an 11 a.m. news conference. He will speak but won’t take questions, according to a news release.
Franklin Graham, president of the North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, said the group was “giving thanks to God” for Brantly’s recovery. Brantly has been in Emory University Hospital’s isolation unit in Atlanta for nearly three 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,” Graham said in a statement. “His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all.”
Aid groups evacuated Brantly, 33, from Liberia on Aug. 2. His colleague Nancy Writebol, 59, followed on Aug. 5. The two were infected while working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia's capital. Writebol was working for North Carolina-based aid group SIM, and Emory officials are expected to release more information today about when she may be released.
Both Americans received an experimental drug that some say contributed to their recovery. While one Spanish priest who received the drug died, the Liberian government says three Liberian health workers are showing “remarkable” progress after getting the last doses of the serum. Experts have cautioned that it’s unclear whether the drug, never before tested in humans, is effective. The California-based drug maker said additional doses of the drug won’t be available for months.
The current outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria has killed more than 1,350 people, and officials have said treatment centers are filling up faster than new ones can be opened or expanded. Sick patients are packing hallways, potentially infecting more people. Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick. The disease causes internal bleeding and has been fatal in more than 50 percent of cases.
The death toll is rising most quickly in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the fatalities, the World Health Organization said. With at least 2,473 people sickened across West Africa, this outbreak has more recorded cases than the previous two-dozen outbreaks combined. Graham said Samaritan’s Purse is sending more health workers to Liberia to aid the more than 350 already there.
Calm returned Thursday to a slum in the Liberian capital that was sealed off in the government’s attempt to halt the spread of Ebola. Suspicious residents rioted and raided an Ebola screening area Saturday. Hundreds more rioted Wednesday as police and soldiers used scrap wood and barbed wire to seal off the slum of 50,000 people. Officials and residents are now trying to determine how to get food into the neighborhood.