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NIH says Ebola nurse now virus free, has been discharged from Bethesda center

The Dallas nurse being treated for Ebola at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda is now virus free and has been discharged, the NIH announced Friday.

Nina Pham, who contracted the virus after treating an infected Liberian man in Dallas who later died, walked out of NIH Clinical Center early Friday afternoon, hugging members of her medical team and family.

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"I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today," she said, noting many others have not been as lucky.

Pham, who read a statement but did not answer questions, was first transported to the special clinical unit at the NIH Clinical Center on Oct. 16.

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She said she put her trust "in God and my medical team" throughout her treatment. "As a nurse I have a special appreciation for the care I have received from so many people," she said.

Pham received a plasma transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, another American Ebola survivor, and thanked him for assisting in her recovery.

Pham said she believes in the power of prayer and thanked people around the world for praying for her, but said the past several weeks have been "very stressful" for her and her family, and asked for privacy.

"Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be a while before I have my strength back," she said.

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Pham flew out of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport for Dallas on a private medical charter Friday evening, according to a source familiar with the arrangements but not authorized to discuss them.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the NIH, said his agency sometimes likes to consider itself the "National Institutes of Hope," and that "hope just went up a notch today."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease who led Pham's treatment, called her "an extraordinarily courageous and lovely person."

Five separate tests to look for the Ebola virus in her body were conducted, and all came back negative, he said.

That Pham was young and healthy when she contracted the Ebola virus, and that she entered treatment quickly, contributed to her recovery, Fauci said. Still, much is unknown about the virus and how it is handled by different people, he said.

"It's virtually impossible to say, 'This is the thing that did it,'" he said, when asked to pinpoint the turning point in her treatment.

Fauci said Pham understood the risks she was taking as a health care worker treating an Ebola patient, and applauded her "character and bravery."

He said he'll miss Pham, who taught him how to use FaceTime.

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