An American doctor infected with Ebola left his isolation unit and warmly hugged his doctors and nurses, showing the world that he poses no public health threat one month after getting sick with the virus.
Dr Kent Brantly called yesterday a "miraculous day".
Brantly and his fellow medical missionary, Nancy Writebol, who was quietly discharged two days earlier, are still weak but should recover completely, and no one need fear being in contact with them, said Dr. Bruce Ribner, who runs the infectious disease unit at Emory University Hospital.
Brantly's reappearance was festive and celebratory, a stark contrast to his arrival in an ambulance under police escort three weeks earlier, when he shuffled into the hospital wearing a bulky white hazardous materials suit.
"I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family," Brantly said, choking up as he read a written statement. Then he and his wife turned and hugged a parade of doctors and nurses, hugging or shaking hands with each one. For some, it was their first direct contact without protective gear.
After Brantly (33) and Writebol (59) were infected while working with Ebola victims in Liberia, their charity organizations, Samaritan's Purse and SIM, reached out to top infectious disease experts for help.
They obtained one of only five courses available worldwide of an experimental drug known as Zmapp, and Brantly and Writebol split the doses before being evacuated to Atlanta. The other four were later given to a Spanish priest, who died, and three doctors in Africa, who have been improving.
Writebol's son, Jeremy Writebol, spent two weeks at the hospital with her but left Tuesday morning.
"I haven't given her a hug yet. I am anxious to do that, but we are waiting for the right time and for her to be able to be with us," he said in a telephone interview.
Brantly didn't take questions at yesterday's news conference, but he did briefly describe how they confronted Ebola back in Liberia. He said his team took all the precautions they could. After his wife and children returned to the US for a family wedding, he focused on work, moving patients to a bigger isolation unit. Three days later, he woke up feeling sick, and was diagnosed with the disease.
"As I lay in my bed in Liberia for the following nine days, getting sicker and weaker each day. I prayed that God would help me to be faithful even in my illness," Brantly said.