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Husband of Ebola patient leaves quarantine, visits wife in isolation

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The husband of an American missionary diagnosed with the deadly Ebola virus has ended his quarantine in North Carolina and visited his wife Sunday at an isolation room at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, a Christian missionary group announced Monday.

David Writebol, who was quarantined as a precautionary measure after returning from Liberia, said his wife, Nancy, was continuing to improve. Nancy Writebol, 59, and a missionary doctor, Ken Brantly, 33, were flown from Liberia earlier this month for treatment at Emory’s special containment unit, one of just four in the country.

"I have had the great joy to be able to look through the isolation room glass and see my beautiful wife again,’’ David Writebol said in a statement Monday. "We both placed our hands on opposite sides of the glass, moved with tears to look at each other again."

Writebol has not had contact with his wife since she was diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia on July 26. Nancy Writebol, wearing a full-body white protective suit, was flown to Atlanta on a specially-outfitted private plane on Aug. 5.

David Writebol said he had no symptoms of Ebola and was cleared by doctors to leave quarantine Sunday to visit his wife.

"She was standing with her radiant smile, happy beyond words," David Writebol said of Sunday’s meeting. "She is continuing to slowly gain strength, eager for the day when the barriers separating us are set aside, and we can simply hold each other."

He added: "We prayed together over the intercom."

"My family and I look forward to her speedy restoration, and we give thanks for continued prayers on her behalf," Writebol said.

Ebola has infected at least 2,100 people and killed 1,145 in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.

Two other doctors with the Charlotte-based missionary group SIM also were placed in precautionary quarantine on SIM’s campus in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 10. The doctors, whose names have not been released, have not been diagnosed with Ebola.

Palmer Holt, a spokesman for SIM, declined to say Monday whether the two doctors were still in quarantine.

Both Nancy Writebol and Brantly have been treated with the experimental drug Zmapp, which contains a mixture of antibodies. There is no effective vaccine for Ebola, but patients are given fluids and other treatments in hopes of stabilizing them long enough for their immune systems to eventually fight off the virus.

In the worst Ebola outbreak in Africa since the virus first appeared in 1976, as many as 90% of those diagnosed have died, according to the WHO. The virus is spread through contact with bodily fluids.

On Friday, Brantly released a statement from his isolation room at the Atlanta hospital, saying his condition continued to improve.

"I am growing stronger every day," Brantly said.

Brantly said he traveled to Liberia not to fight Ebola but to treat patients at a SIM-run missionary hospital in Monrovia on behalf of a North-Carolina based Christian charity, Samaritan’s Purse.  But as Ebola swept through West Africa, he began treating Ebola patients, he said.

"I witnessed the horror first-hand, and I can still remember every face and name," he said.

He added: "As you continue to pray for Nancy and me, yes, please pray for our recovery.  More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God’s call on our lives in these new circumstances."

Follow @davidzucchino for more national news.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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