Updated 12:10 p.m.
Two Americans who contracted Ebola while on an aid trip in West Africa have been discharged from Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, officials said Thursday. Dr. Kent Brantly was released Thursday, while Nancy Writebol was released Tuesday, though her discharge wasn’t publicly known until now.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, an infectious disease specialist at Emory who was leading the patients’ care, said his team determined in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Atlanta’s Health Department that the patients are virus-free and can return home with no public health concerns. Ribner also defended the choice to bring the two Ebola-stricken Americans to Emory for treatment.
“It was the right decision to bring these patients back to Emory to treat them,” Ribner said in a press conference Thursday. “What we learn from them will help advance the world’s understanding of how to treat Ebola virus infection, and help to improve survival in parts of the world where patients with Ebola are treated.”
Brantly, the more public of the two American Ebola patients, gave a public statement thanking both his organization Samaritan’s Purse and the medical team at Emory. The smiling doctor looked well, and thanked God multiple times for his recovery.
“Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family,” he said. “[In Liberia] I prayed that in my life or in my death, that [God] would be glorified. I did not know then, but have learned since that there were thousands, maybe millions of people around the world praying for me that week . . . I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support . . . I serve a faithful God who answers prayers. God saved my life.”
Writebol, the other American Ebola patient, asked for privacy and requested the hospital not give details about her recovery, which is why her discharge remained private. She did, however, ask Dr. Brantly to extend her thanks. “As she walked out of her isolation room, all she could say was, to God be the glory,” said Brantly. Both Writebol and Brantly said they will be spending time alone with their families for some time.
The pair were brought to Emory as the hospital has an infectious disease unit specially equipped for treating serious communicable diseases. There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, though the patients did receive a drug still in early stages of development. Dr. Ribner added that since the patients were the first humans to ever receive the drug, it is still unclear how it played a role in their recovery.
The team of doctors treating the patients previously told TIME that they hope what they learn from treating the patients can shed insight into the disease that can be shared with other physicians fighting Ebola, the latest global outbreak of which has claimed at least 1,350 lives, according to the latest World Health Organization numbers.
“We are mindful of all of those in West Africa that are still fighting for their lives against this threat, and those who are carrying for them, putting their own lives in danger,” said Dr. Ribner. The Emory medical team will be releasing guidelines for physicians in West Africa to provide insight into what worked during the Americans’ treatment.