ATLANTA — The two American aid workers who were the first patients ever to be treated for the Ebola virus at a hospital in the United States have been released, capping a transcontinental medical drama that stirred public debate about whether any American with the virus should have been allowed to return.
Emory University Hospital, which admitted Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol to a specialized isolation ward this month, said both were discharged after at least two weeks of treatment. Brantly was released Thursday, the hospital said, after Writebol was quietly discharged Tuesday.
“I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life, and I’m glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic,” Brantly, who arrived at Emory on Aug. 2 after being evacuated from Liberia, said at a news conference here Thursday morning, his wife at his side.
Writebol, who is from North Carolina, did not appear before reporters on the Emory campus, which is near the headquarters of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She arrived in the United States three days after Brantly after she was flown, as he was, aboard a private air ambulance to a military base northwest of Atlanta. Brantly had been working with Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian aid organization, in Africa, where an Ebola outbreak has claimed more than 1,200 lives. Writebol worked for SIM USA, also a Christian aid group.
“Nancy is free of the virus, but the lingering effects of the battle have left her in a significantly weakened condition,” her husband, David Writebol, said in a statement. “Thus, we decided it would be best to leave the hospital privately to be able to give her the rest and recuperation she needs at this time.”
Emory on Thursday defended its decision to admit Brantly and Writebol, saying that doctors had learned information that would “advance the world’s understanding” of the virus while providing lifesaving aid.
“It was the right decision to bring these patients back to Emory for treatment,” said Dr. Bruce S. Ribner, the infectious disease specialist who oversaw the pair’s care at Emory.
He added, “We always suspected that we had a good chance of helping these patients survive.”
The admissions of Brantly and Writebol had drawn pointed questions, many of them online, focused on whether they would spread the infection in the United States. But doctors and public health officials repeatedly said there was no risk to the public, especially with the availability of an isolation unit.