An American doctor who contracted Ebola while treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has been discharged from an Atlanta hospital after being treated with an experimental drug.
“Today is a miraculous day,” Kent Brantly told reporters. “I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”
Brantly was given ZMapp, a drug developed by U.S.-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical and used on a handful of patients in the West African outbreak.
The “secret serum” is what’s known as a “monoclonal antibody.”
As James Hamblin of The Atlantic explains, these substances are created by infecting an animal with the disease in question. Then, scientists harvest and use the antibodies that the animals’ immune systems create to fight the virus.
In this case, the antibodies were harvested from Ebola-infected mice.
“As a medical missionary, I never imagined myself in this position. When my family and I moved to Libera … Ebola was not on the radar,” Brantly said. “We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people in Liberia.
“In March … we began preparing for the worst. We received the first Ebola patient in June. [After] the use of an experimental drug and the expertise of a healthcare team at [Atlanta’s Emory Hospital] … God saved my life.”
Reuters reports that three African doctors, also treated with ZMapp in Liberia, have shown remarkable signs of improvement.
At least 2,473 people have been infected and 1,350 have died since the Ebola outbreak was identified in remote southeastern Guinea in March. Most places in Africa do not have the sanitation of basic medical knowledge to deal with the ruthless disease.
“You have people saying they don’t have food, they don’t have water, they need their IV replaced — and you’re trying to do all of that,” Daniel Bausch, a doctor and associate professor who has treated victims, told Business Insider.
“I need to wash my hands before I see the patients, and there might be no running water. There [is sometimes] no soap, no clean needles.”
The progression of symptoms for Ebola is alarming. Initially, the fever, weakness, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat associated with Ebola could be mistaken for a bad flu.
But it is soon followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, and impaired organ function. A large proportion of those infected also bleed profusely, both internally and externally. Blood often flows from puncture sites (e.g., where IVs have been inserted) and mucous membranes (e.g., the nose, the eyelids).
Ebola is one of at least 30 viruses known to cause this constellation of symptoms, called viral hemorrhagic fever syndrome.
Kevin Lora contributed to this report.
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