BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — A nurse who caught Ebola while caring for the patient diagnosed in Dallas was released from a hospital Friday, free of the virus, and met with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Nurse Nina Pham said she felt “fortunate and blessed to be standing here today,” as she left the National Institutes of Health’s hospital outside Washington.
She thanked her health care team in Dallas and at the NIH and singled out fellow Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, who recovered after becoming infected in Liberia, for donating plasma containing Ebola-fighting antibodies as part of her care.
“Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be a while before I have my strength back,” Pham, 26, said at a news conference.
Doctors have cleared her to return home to Texas, and after speaking at NIH she met with Obama in the Oval Office, where the president hugged her. White House spokesman Josh Earnest called the meeting “an opportunity for the president to thank her for her service.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the NIH, told reporters that five consecutive tests showed no virus left in her blood. Five tests is way beyond the norm, he stressed, but his team did extra testing because the NIH is a research hospital.
“She is cured of Ebola, let’s get that clear,” Fauci said.
Pham stood throughout the approximately 20-minute press conference and was joined by her mother and sister. She read from a prepared statement and took no questions, but she called her experience “very stressful and challenging for me and for my family.”
“I ask for my privacy and for my family’s privacy to be respected as I return to Texas and try to get back to a normal life and reunite with my dog Bentley,” she said, drawing laughter with the mention of her 1-year-old King Charles spaniel, who has been in quarantine following Pham’s diagnosis but has tested negative for the virus.
Pham arrived last week at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. She had been flown there from Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
Pham is one of two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled to the United States from Liberia and died of the virus Oct. 8. Liberia is one of three West Africa countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak.
The second nurse, Amber Vinson, is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, which on Friday issued a statement saying she “is making good progress” and that tests no longer detect virus in her blood. But Emory said it had no discharge date for Vinson yet, as she continues to receive supportive care.
Associated Press writers Lauran Neergaard and Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington contributed to this report.