Fort Worth missionary doctor recovered from Ebola

Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan's Purse credits God for his recovery from the Ebola virus at a news conference as he was released from Emory University Hospital. (Samaritan's Purse Photo)

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ATLANTA (RNS)—An American doctor treated for Ebola, Kent Brantly, was discharged from Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital Aug. 21. Another American aid worker, Nancy Writebol, was discharged Aug. 19.

brantly doctors liberia425Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse talks to health workers in Liberia before he was infected with the Ebola virus. (Samaritan’s Purse Photo)“God saved my life,” said Brantly, looking gaunt, at a press conference in which the room applauded his appearance. He thanked 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, who was working in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse when he became infected, would go to an undisclosed location with his wife and children after the press conference.

Brantly and Writebol, a volunteer with SIM USA, were flown to Emory from West Africa in early August and were treated in the hospital’s specialized unit.

No risk to the public

Ribner said the hospital performed extensive blood and urine tests on both patients and consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before deciding the two missionaries were ready to be released. Neither pose any risk to the public, he said. Five doctors and 21 nurses cared for Brantly and Writebol during their stay.

In his statement, Brantly said his family arrived in Liberia last November and he saw his first Ebola patient in June. “We took every precaution to protect ourselves from this dreaded disease,” Brantly said.

nancy writebol425American worker Nancy Writebol, was discharged Aug. 19 after being treated for Ebola. (RNS Photo couresy of SIM)On July 23, just a few days after sending his family home, however, Brantly said he woke up feeling sick, and soon learned that he was infected.

Writebol chose not to make a statement. However, Brantly related that, as she left her isolation unit, she said, “To God be the glory.”

Ribner said he hopes what he and his colleagues learned about treating Ebola can help save other patients in Africa.

While in Liberia, Brantly received a blood transfusion from an Ebola survivor.

Was experimental drug effective?

Both Brantly and Writebol 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 sophisticated medical care conditions in West Africa are recovering 50 percent 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 said.

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.

Outbreak continues to grow

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,” CDC director Thomas Frieden said. “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.”

Brantly said he is “glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic. Please continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end.”

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