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NIH admits American nurse exposed to Ebola in Sierra Leone

NIH
(Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun)

An American nurse recently exposed to the Ebola virus while volunteering at a treatment unit in Sierra Leone was admitted to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda on Thursday.

The NIH confirmed the nurse's arrival Thursday afternoon, hours after first announcing they were expecting a new patient. The nurse was not identified.

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Emma Wojtowicz, an NIH spokeswoman, described the nurse's experience as a "potential exposure" but would not comment on whether the nurse has been tested for the virus.

Sierra Leone is one of three West African countries where thousands of people have died of the virus since its outbreak.

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The NIH Clinical Center, which has an isolation unit designed for the treatment of patients with highly infectious diseases, is a designated treatment space for Ebola patients in this country.

Staff at the facility successfully treated another American nurse, Nina Pham, earlier this year, after she contracted the virus while treating an infected Liberian man in Dallas.

Pham was deemed virus-free and discharged from the facility Oct. 24. She was photographed later the same day hugging President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, the NIH said it was taking "every precaution to ensure the safety" of patients, staff and the public, and said the treatment of the nurse at the center "presents minimal risk to any of them."

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"The special clinical studies unit is specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists," it said in a statement. "The unit staff is trained in strict infection control practices optimized to prevent spread of potentially transmissible agents such as Ebola. In addition, access to the unit will be strictly controlled."

The NIH said the nurse arrived "from an overseas location via private charter medevac in isolation," but declined to provide more details.

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