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U.S. Ebola Patients Discharged, Present No Public Health Threat

Both U.S. patients who were being treated for Ebola at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta have been discharged after health officials determined they were no longer contagious and did not present a public health threat.

�After a rigorous 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,� said Dr. Bruce Ribner, medical director of the hospital�s infectious disease unit, in a press conference Thursday morning.

Dr. Kent Brantley was discharged from the hospital Thursday following the press conference and Nancy Writebol, an aid worker, was released on Tuesday. Both had been working in Liberia to treat Ebola victims when they contracted the virus. They were treated locally for several days before being transferred to Emory, which has close ties with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as they are both in Atlanta, Ribner said.

Ebola patients are discharged on a case-by-case basis, following guidance from the CDC and the World Health Organization. Ribner said that both Brantley and Writebol were released after tests showed the virus was no longer present in their blood streams and their symptoms had improved over the past two to three days. Brantley and Writebol will need some additional time to recover as Ebola is a �fairly devastating disease,� but as in most patients, if they haven�t had any substantial organ damage they will make a complete recovery, Ribner explained.

Both patients are scheduled for check-ups to ensure that they are progressing in their recovery, and they are now considered immune to the strain of Ebola virus they contracted. If they choose to, Brantley and Writebol could return to Liberia and continue treating Ebola patients there with little risk of contracting the virus again. However, Ribner said they would still be at risk if they chose to participate in treating patients in a different outbreak where another one of the five strains of the virus is present.

The decision to bring Brantley and Writebol to the United States to treat them was controversial, but Ribner said �it was the right decision� as it would enhance understanding of how to treat Ebola and how to improve survival rates. Health officials also thought that the improved health care infrastructure in the United States could be beneficial to their recovery.

�We were very hopeful that with the level of support we can deliver at our facility, we would have a substantially better outcome than our colleagues with lesser developed health systems,� he explained. By bringing Brantley and Writebol to the United States, the healthcare team was able to quickly replace their lost fluids and electrolytes, while also monitoring their blood clotting abilities�things that are not always possible in lesser developed health care facilities in Africa.

Ribner also explained that while Brantley and Writebol were placed in a specialized unit for treatment at Emory, �lots of facilities in the United States should be able to care for patients with Ebola.� This is because U.S. hospitals already have policies in procedures in place to prevent contamination and the spread of infectious diseases.

The CDC also released a statement following the patients� discharge, saying it was �heartened� to learn that they had been released from the hospital and that there are no restrictions for their activities of daily living.

�At times people in Africa who have recovered from Ebola have found their communities reluctant to have them return out of fear that community members could catch Ebola from a person who has survived the illness,� the statement said. �Based on available evidence, Ebola survivors have not transmitted the virus to others after it is no longer present in their blood.�