He's out! Ebola patient leaves Atlanta hospital

Containing Ebola outbreak

An unidentified Ebola patient who had been treated at an Atlanta hospital since early September was discharged Sunday after he was found "free of the virus"—and doctors in Nebraska hope to release an NBC News freelancer who also had Ebola later this week.

The Atlanta patient is a World Health Organization doctor who had contracted the often-deadly disease in Africa. He arrived at Emory University Hospital on Sept. 9.

"The patient was determined to be free of virus and to pose no public health threat," Emory Health News said in a statement Monday. "The patient has asked to remain anonymous and left the hospital for an undisclosed location. He will make a statement at a later date."

Two other patients who were treated for Ebola virus disease were discharged from the hospital on August 19 and August 21."

Those other patients were Dr. Keith Brantly and Nancy Writebol.

The WHO doctor was joined in the the Serious Communicable Disease Unit last week by Amber Joy Vinson, a Dallas hospital nurse who recently was diagnosed with Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died of the disease on Oct. 8.

On Monday, Monday a doctor at the Nebraska hospital where a freelance NBC News cameraman is being treated for Ebola said the journalist, Ashoka Mukpo, is doing quite well.

Dr. Mark Rupp also said that doctors hope to have him home within a few days, perhaps later this week, but added that physicians are taking it day-by-day

Rupp said that doctors are waiting for tests to show that Mukpo is clear of the virus.

Earlier Monday, several dozen people who were being actively monitored in Dallas for Ebola are no longer at risk of developing the virus, officials announced Monday.

But several school staffers and students in Oklahoma were being kept out of school because they were on a cruise with a woman who had handled medical samples from an Ebola victim.

Those developments came as more than 200 other people remain monitored for Ebola after having contact or potential contact with three people in the U.S. diagnosed with the virus, and as federal health officials moved to change guidelines for how health-care workers protect themselves from Ebola when treating patients.

President Barack Obama makes a statement next to Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Thomas Frieden.
Larry Downing | Reuters

The Moore, Oklahoma, school district said it was "erring on the side of caution" by banning an unidentified number of students and staff from its schools and school activities despite the fact that a woman who had been aboard the same Carnival Cruise line ship with them until Sunday has tested negative for Ebola.

The woman had tested samples from Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas in late September, and who died in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital a little more than a week later..

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The district said the students and staff will not be let back into the schools until the district can confirm the lab tech "has been 'cleared' and there is no medical threat ... Our hope is that we will have the 'all clear' by later afternoon on Tuesday."

The district's action came despite the fact that health officials have repeatedly stated that people can contract Ebola only from someone who is showing signs of the disease, and from direct contact with their bodily fluids.

Although the lab tech has no signs of Ebola, two nurses who treated Duncan, Vinson and Nina Pham, both have been diagnosed with Ebola. Vinson was taken to Emory last week for treatment, while Pham was taken to the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Forty-eight people who had contact or suspected contact with Duncan up to his Sept. 28 admission at that hospital were the first group to begin being monitored twice-daily in recent weeks.

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On Monday, Texas officials said 43 of of them—including people with personal relationships to Duncan, health-care workers and community members—were cleared from monitoring because it had been more than 21 days since they last had potential contact with Duncan.

"They have no Ebola symptoms and are not at risk for developing Ebola," said a statement from the Texas Department of State Health Services. "They are able to continue normal daily activities without being monitored for symptoms."

Four of the people are Duncan's fiancee, Louise Troh, and three others who shared a Dallas apartment with the couple. All four had been under quarantine until Monday.

"We are so happy this is coming to an end, and we are so grateful that none of us has shown any sign of illness," Troh said in a statement released Sunday "Our happiness is mixed with sadness at the same time. My beloved fiancée,Thomas Eric Duncan, who was also the father of my son, Karsiah Eric Duncan, did not survive with us. We continue to mourn his loss and grieve the circumstances that led to his death, just at the time we thought we were facing a happy future together."

Another person who was in the ambulance with Duncan when he went to the hospital is set to come off of monitoring later Monday. Four more people, all health-care workers who saw Duncan on Sept. 28, are due to come off the watch-list soon, officials said.

About 75 health-care workers who had cared for Duncan before he died remain under monitoring. About 25 of them chose to sleep at Texas Health over the weekend out of concern they could spread Ebola to family members of they developed symptoms, officials said.

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Three people who had contact with Vinson are in quarantine, including her mother, after she traveled to Ohio to prepare for her upcoming wedding.

Officials in Ohio are actively monitoring another 20 people through visits by health officials, and another 119 people are either having their temperature taken each day by a health official or are monitoring their temperatures themselves with the agreement to call if there is a change.

Largely as a result of Duncan having infected Vinson and Pham, the federal Centers for Disease Control plans to soon issue new, clearer guidelines on the kinds of personal protective equipment that should be worn by health-care workers treating Ebola patients, and how they should be putting that gear on and removing it.

"We're wrapping up the final details and will be issuing the updated PPE guidance soon," a CDC spokeswoman said.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden was among a group of top Obama administration officials—including the Vice President Joseph Biden, the secretaries of defense, health and human services, homeland security and the national security advisor—who briefed President Barack Obama on the response to Ebola. Obama last week cancelled a mid-term campaign visit to New Jersey and Connecticut after Vinson was diagnosed, and on Friday appointed Ron Klain, a former Biden chief of staff, to coordinate the government's Ebola efforts.

Hazmat workers with Protect Environmental unload barrels in preparation for decontaminating an apartment at The Village Bend East apartment complex where a second health care worker who has tested positive for the Ebola virus resides on October 15, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.
Getty Images

Vinson's family, in a statement released Sunday, said it was "troubled by some negative public comments and media coverage that mischaracterize Amber and her actions."

The family said Vinson had contacted the CDC before traveling to Ohio and received clearance to do so. Vinson's family also said she had followed government-provide protocols for treating Duncan.

In other Ebola developments, the African nation of Nigeria was declared free of the virus after no new cases were reported there in the past 42 days. Nigeria had seen 20 cases after Liberian-American diplomat Patrick Sawyer collapsed at the main international airport in Lagos on July 20, and infected several health-care workers.

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The current epidemic is centered in three West African countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where more than 4,500 people have died and nearly 10,000 have been infected. The World Health Organization has warned Ebola could infect 10,000 new people per week if international efforts to combat the disease are't accelerated.

In a letter addressed to the world Sunday written by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, she wrote that, "It is the duty of all of us as global citizens, to send a message that we will not leave millions of West Africans to fend for themselves against an enemy they do not know, and against whom they have little defence."

A Wall Street Journal article published Monday noted Sirleaf's physician son, Dr. James Adama Sirleaf, removed a medical training group from Liberia as Ebola spread in the country in August, and returned to the U.S. where he supervises a hospital ER in Georgia.

Dr. Sirleaf told the WSJ, "The symbolism of me going there and potentially getting Ebola when I have a nine- and seven-year-old at home isn't just worth it to appease people. He is continuing to lead efforts to ship protective equipment for health-care workers in his native country, the Journal noted.

Also on Monday, Cuban president Raul Castro announced the island nation will send two more medical brigades on Tuesday to help fight the spread of Ebola in Liberia and Guinea. Cuba has been lauded for its response so far to the epidemic, having already sent more than 200 health-care workers to Liberia and Sierra Leone.