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The two U.S. patients who were treated for Ebola have been discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where they had been in an isolation ward since returning from Liberia early this month. They are the first patients treated for Ebola on American soil.
Dr. Kent Brantly and missionary Nancy Writebol have been released after "a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing," Emory's Dr. Bruce Ribner said. He added that he's confident that their release from care "poses no public health threat."
The news emerged earlier today that Brantly would be released; in an announcement that has taken many people by surprise, officials also said Writebol had already been released, on Tuesday. The hospital says it respected Writebol's wishes for privacy in not announcing her release.
Update at 11:25 a.m. ET: Brantly Speaks, A Month After Falling Ill
"Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family," Dr. Kent Brantly said at a news conference announcing his and Writebol's release.
Brantly said that when he and his family moved to Liberia last year, Ebola "wasn't on the radar."
But he recalled that on Wednesday, July 23, his life "took an unexpected turn" after he woke up feeling ill. He went on to thank the people who cared for him during his illness, and to note the thousands of people who've been praying for him.
Growing emotional as he spoke, Brantly thanked the aid groups Samaritan's Purse and SIM, along with the Emory staff, for caring for him and his family.
Brantly said he and his family will now spend time together in private, to reconnect. He also said he was glad his case might have attracted attention to the deadly outbreak.
"Please, continue to pray for Liberia and the people of West Africa," he said.
After his remarks, Brantly made his way down the line of hospital staff behind him, hugging and laughing with them. As he left, many in the room gave him a loud round of applause.
Update at 11:05 a.m. ET: Both Patients Released
Missionary Nancy Writebol was "declared virus-free and discharged from hospital Tuesday," according to the SIM aid group. After blood tests came back clear, Writebol was reunited with her husband, David, and they "have gone to an undisclosed location to rest," SIM says.
"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," Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit, said in a statement provided by SIM.
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Brantly, 33, and Writebol, 59, were flown back to the U.S. after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia. They have been treated in a special isolation unit at the hospital in Atlanta, which is also the home of the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Both received an experimental drug called ZMapp," reports NPR's Rob Stein, "though it remains unclear what role that played in their recovery. Brantly had also received a blood transfusion from a 14-year-old boy who recovered from Ebola in Liberia."
For the pair to be released, the medical team treating them would need to have seen two clean blood tests in two days for each of them, according to CNN. In the past two weeks, their health had reportedly been improving.
Brantly, who lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and Writebol, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., had been working with Samaritan's Purse, based in Boone, N.C., to treat patients with Ebola when they realized they had the virus late in July.
The Ebola outbreak has caused more than 1,350 deaths in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. But the organization also warns that its tally might "vastly underestimate the magnitude of the outbreak." Experts tell NPR that the WHO number could be higher by at least 20 percent.