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First Ebola patient brought to US reunites with Emory 5 years after successful treatment

Brantley said he remembers the moment he turned a corner in his recovery after being at Emory for a few days.

ATLANTA — Five years ago, Ebola was put in the spotlight in the United States when the first four patients to be treated in the country were sent to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital. 

No one knew what the outcome would be, but it turned out to be life-saving for patients Dr. Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol, and others.

They were successfully treated by the medical team at Emory and got the chance to revisit the unit on Friday, which marked the fifth anniversary of Dr. Brantly’s arrival at the hospital.

He contracted the virus by working with patients in Africa. Then, just a few days later, his friend, Writebol, came to Emory as well. 

Brantley said he remembers the moment he turned a corner in his recovery after being at Emory for a few days.  

"This was a place and a time where I knew that everything was going to be OK," he said.

He said it's not traumatic for him to reflect on his experience there.

"I really have feelings of nostalgia for my time in that unit," he said. 

To mark this five-year anniversary, Emory is reaffirming its commitment to preparedness and prevention of global infectious diseases. 

“At a time when little was known about caring for these patients, our Serious Communicable Diseases Unit successfully treated individuals with Ebola virus disease, creating protocols that have evolved into internationally recognized standards for caring for patients with deadly infections," said Jonathan Lewin, MD, Emory executive vice president for health affairs and president, CEO and chairman of the board of Emory Healthcare.

The medical staff said they have learned many lessons from treating Brantley and others, but their work is not done.

RELATED: Ebola outbreak in Congo declared a global health emergency

"With Ebola still very much a global threat, our infectious disease physicians, nurses and researchers are using the learnings from 2014 in everyday patient care and working to find more therapies for Ebola and other challenging infectious diseases,” said Colleen Kraft, MD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and associate medical director of Emory’s Serious Communicable Diseases Unit. 

NBC reports there is currently an Ebola outbreak that's been raging for a year in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The outbreak is the second deadliest on record, with more than 1,800 deaths and roughly 2,700 cases. There is also no evidence that shows the outbreak is slowing down.

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