U.S. Ebola patients to be discharged; 1 to speak out

(USA TODAY ) - Two American aid workers treated for Ebola are scheduled to be released from an Atlanta hospital today.

Emory University Hospital announced early Thursday that it will discuss their discharge.

Bruce Ribner, medical director of the hospital's Infectious Disease Unit, will talk about the decision to release the patients during a press conference at 11 a.m. ET.

The hospital said one of the patients, Kent Brantly, will be present at the conference and is expected to make a statement. He will not answer questions or conduct interviews, and will to go to an undisclosed location with his wife and children after the conference.

Brantly and another American, Nancy Writebol, were flown to the Emory from West Africa. They have been treated in the hospital's specialized unit and have received supportive care aimed at keeping them hydrated and stable. Writebol was a volunteer with another aid group, SIM USA.

Both also 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 sophtisticated medical care conditions in West Africa are recovering 50% 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 says.

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.

According to CNN, two blood tests done over a two-day period had to come back negative for Ebola before Brantly could be discharged. David Writebol, Nancy's husband, was released from quarantine earlier this week. Doctors had observed him for three weeks, monitoring him for signs of fever. Ebola can have an incubation period of up to 21 days.

People generally aren't considered contagious unless they have symptoms of Ebola, such as fever.


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