Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, American aid workers who were infected with the deadly Ebola virus in Africa, have recovered and have been discharged Thursday from an Atlanta hospital.
Brantly appeared at a news conference Thursday morning at Emory University Hospital. Writebol tested clear of the virus and was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 19, according to the North Carolina-based aid group SIM.
"After a rigorous course of treatment and thorough 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," Bruce Ribner, MD, medical director of Emory's Infectious Disease Unit, said at a press conference.
Emory said its medical team maintained extensive safety procedures throughout the treatment process and is confident the discharge of the patients posed no public health threat.
"The Emory Healthcare team is extremely pleased with Dr. Brantly's and Mrs. Writebol's recovery, and was inspired by their spirit and strength, as well as by the steadfast support of their families," said Ribner.
Earlier, Franklin Graham, president of North Carolina-based Samaritan's Purse, said in a statement that the group was celebrating Brantly's recovery. He has been in the hospital's isolation unit for nearly three weeks.
"Today I join all of our Samaritan's Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly's recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital," Graham's statement said.
Brantly, 33, was flown out of the west African nation of Liberia on Aug. 2, and Nancy Writebol, 59, followed Aug. 5. The two were infected while working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia's capital.
Brantly and Writebol received an experimental treatment called Zmapp, but it's not known whether the drug helped or whether they improved on their own, as has happened to others who have survived the disease. The treatment is so novel that it hasn't been tested in people.
The limited supply of Zmapp also was tried in a Spanish missionary priest, who died, and three Liberian health care workers, who are said to be improving.
The Ebola outbreak has killed 1,350 people and counting across West Africa. There is no proven treatment or vaccine. Patients are given basic supportive care to keep them hydrated, maintain their blood pressure and treat any complicating infections. Ebola is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of sick people experiencing symptoms.
On Thursday in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, calm set in one day after residents in a slum that was sealed off in an effort to contain the outbreak clashed with riot police and soldiers. World Health Organization officials were visiting two hospitals that are treating Ebola patients and struggling to keep up with the influx of patients.
The death toll is rising most quickly in Liberia, which now accounts for at least 576 of the fatalities, the WHO said. At least 2,473 people have been sickened across West Africa - more than the caseloads of all the previous two-dozen Ebola outbreaks combined.
About 160 health care workers have been infected, including Brantly and Writebol, who were wearing protective gear to prevent infection.
That's been a big concern in the medical community, but CBS News correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook reports one possibility being strongly considered is that the two Americans were actually infected outside the Ebola ward, at dinner or some other setting where they would not have been expected to be wearing the protective equipment.
Writebol and Brantley apparently came in contact with a Liberian health care worker who was sick. He had at least a fever and several days later he died from Ebola.
"Now, if it turns out that's how the two Americans got infected with Ebola, it would actually be kind of reassuring because then you wouldn't have to invoke a problem with the protective equipment as the reason for them getting infected", LaPook says.