Ebola patients facing long recovery, but they're now 'immune'

ATLANTA -- The news keeps getting better about Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the Ebola patients being treated at Emory University Hospital.

He and Nancy Writebol contracted Ebola while doing missionary work in Liberia.

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There were no updates Friday about Ms. Writebol.

But Dr. Brantly released a statement saying, in part, "As my treatment continues... I am recovering in every way...There are still a few hurdles to clear before I can be discharged, but I hold on to the hope of a sweet reunion with my wife, children and family in the near future."

The two patients are just about at the end of the 21-day period during which they are contagious.

What's next for them?

They're going to be able to leave Emory University Hospital's isolation units.

Then they will likely need months to get back to full health.

But from now on, they won't be able to infect anyone else with Ebola, and no one will be able to infect them with Ebola.

"They're immune," said Rob Dretler, M.D., of Infectious Diseases Specialists in Atlanta.

The two, dedicated missionaries, who have been fighting the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, trying to save lives, ultimately will be able to go back to their mission posts, if they wish, and continue their fight.

They can't get Ebola again.

"Once they're out of Emory, it's really just a matter of rehab -- good nutrition and rehabilitation, building your muscles back up," said Dr. Dretler. "This kind of illness destroys your muscle tissue, so there will be a lot of muscle loss.... It leaves you very weak, and it's going to take a long time to recover.... There's nothing that's irreversable, they should get back to relatively normal lives after a few months."

For now, and, perhaps, for several weeks, he expects that they will be enduring achiness, pain and fatigue.

But Dr. Dretler said that it is the medical care they have been receiving at Emory University Hospital -- care that not available, yet, in west Africa -- that saved them from developing side effects that could have made their recovery even more difficult.

"It's modern medical care, so they didn't have the complications of kidney failure, liver failure, things that can happen when you're desperately ill."

Dr. Dretler thinks their suffering and recovery are delivering a message to the rest of the country that it is in America's self-interest to intervene in west Africa's Ebola outbreak with even greater urgency, "Sending what resources we have, trained personnel, properly equipped personnel, to try to stop it before it spreads farther and becomes a world pandemic."


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