This morning (Aug 21) there was a press conference outside of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit, confirmed that the two Americans who had been receiving treatment for Ebola virus disease (EVD) had recovered from the illness. Dr. Kent Brantly (33) was discharged today and Nancy Writebol (59) was quietly released on Tuesday.
“After a rigorous and successful course of treatment and testing, the Emory Healthcare team has determined that both patients have recovered from the Ebola virus and can return to their families and community without concern for spreading this infection to others,” Ribner stated.
The pair had fallen ill while in Liberia while performing missionary work. While still in Africa, they both received an experimental serum called ZMapp that was made with antibodies derived from mice. Additionally, Brantly had received a transfusion of blood from a teenager who had treated for EVD earlier that summer, in an effort to pass along some antibodies.
Brantly and Writebol were transferred to Atlanta on August 2 and 5, respectively. They were treated in specialized isolation units where they received top notch care and were the subject of a great deal of research, so scientists can learn more about the effects of EVD in hopes of developing a better course of treatment.
Though the pair spurred dozens of headlines after receiving the experimental ZMapp, it has not been made clear if the drug had any effect on the recovery at all.
"Frankly, we do not know whether it helped them, whether it made no difference or whether it theoretically delayed their recovery,” Ribner said about the drug. Around 45% of people who have been sick in this outbreak have survived without the use of experimental medications and without being treated in a cutting-edge isolation facility like Emory. For those who are otherwise healthy enough, managing symptoms and maintaining hydration is enough to let the body fight the virus on its own.
The staff at Emory University Hospital as well as officials from the CDC would like to reiterate that these two do not pose a risk in transmitting EVD. Isolation protocols were strictly adhered to and extensive testing of blood and urine have revealed they are cleared of the infection.
Writebol did not attend this morning’s event. Instead, her husband had passed along a written statement that said though she was no longer infected with Ebola, she is still weak from the extended illness. She will continue to rest and recover privately with her family. Brantly addressed the crowd outside of the hospital during the press conference. He stated that he and his family would be going away to an undisclosed location for the next month so he could also rest and reconnect with his family, and he would not be speaking publicly about his illness until after that time. He also urged the public not to forget about those still fighting the outbreak in West Africa.
As of today, there have been 2473 suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. A total of 1350 of those patients have died.