How Ebola Survivors Have Fought the Stigma

Americans Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol survived the deadly virus.

— -- The recovery and release of two American Ebola patients has spotlighted a lingering side effect of the deadly disease: stigma.

Brantly was released from the hospital today. Writebol was released on Tuesday.

“Ebola has ruined my life even though I am cured," she told the AP. "No one wants to spend a minute in my company for fear of being contaminated."

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Ebola spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Though it is not know why some people survive and others do not, blood tests can determine when the patient has recovered, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I think there’s been enough study of previous patients such that once individuals have recovered, their ability to transmit Ebola to someone else is virtually nil," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

The virus only tends to linger in semen and vaginal fluid for a few extra weeks, Schaffner added.

"That doesn’t imperil any of their neighbors the people who sit next to them at restaurants, the folks that they meet at church and any other casual person," Schaffner said. "From a public health point of view, they’re of no risk to anybody else. That’s really, really well established or else they not be releasing these people into the general population."

Still, Schaffner said the general public may be anxious anyway. Words from “people in white coats” alone aren’t enough to change minds, he said, likening the situation to people’s initial fear of AIDS and HIV patients despite scientific proof that they were no danger to the general public.