BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Texas nurse who first contracted Ebola after treating an infected Liberian national in Dallas was flown to Maryland to receive treatment.
Nina Pham, 26, was flown from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital and admitted to National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on Thursday.
Pham asked the hospital to release the following statement: “I’m so thankful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, my coworkers and complete strangers. I feel very blessed, and have gained strength from their support. I appreciate everything that my coworkers have done to care for me at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. I’m doing really well thanks to this team, which is the best in the world. I believe in my talented coworkers. I am #presbyproud!”
Pham contracted Ebola after she treated Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who had traveled through Dulles International Airport to Dallas in September. Duncan died last week after spending several weeks undergoing treatment in a Dallas hospital.
She will be admitted to the Special Clinical Studies Unit of the NIH Clinical Center after it was requested by Texas Health.
“It was a difficult decision to transfer Nina, a member of our own family and someone who is greatly loved and respected,” said Dr. Gary Weinstein, chief of pulmonology and critical care medicine. “We’re so glad she has improved so much in such a short amount of time. Our prayers are with her, and she’ll be in wonderful hands at NIH.”
According to NIH, the Special Clinical Studies Unit is “specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists.”
“The staff is trained in strict infection control practices optimized to prevent spread of potentially transmissible agents such as Ebola,” the hospital reported in a statement.
In a statement from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, officials said Pham is being transferred because a number of employees are unable to care for her.
“We believe that transferring Nina to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the right decision,” the statement reads. “With many of the medical professionals who would normally staff the intensive care unit sidelined for continuous monitoring, it is in the best interest of the hospital employees, nurses, physicians and the community to give the hospital an opportunity to prepare for whatever comes next.”
Pham is reportedly in good condition and will be flown to Maryland via Frederick Municipal Airport.
Several Maryland facilities are being used to test Ebola vaccines on humans after the vaccines were tested on animals.
One experimental Canadian-made vaccine is being tested at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, while another vaccine was recently used to treat five healthcare workers in the country of Mali, by Dr. Milagritos Tapia and Dr. Myron Levine. Tapia and Levine are both of University of Maryland Centers for Vaccine Development.
“They see themselves as someone who could be exposed to a real bona fide case of Ebola in Mali,” Tapia said.
The candidate vaccine was developed in Bethesda and, so far, tests on monkeys have shown high levels of protection.
“Although the protection goes down over months, that may be a tool in the short-term to be able to protect healthcare workers and to stop transmission,” Levine said.
Stopping transmission is key as the death toll continues to mount. Healthcare workers have made up 10% of all the West African Ebola deaths.
“And these countries have small numbers of healthcare workers to begin with and each one is a great loss to the system and to the society there,” said Dr. Adam Kushner, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“If they don’t come to work, if they are afraid for themselves and their families, then all of the healthcare starts to dissolve in these three countries,” Levine said.
That’s why officials have fast-tracked the vaccine trial process and made healthcare workers there the top priority.
Johns Hopkins held an Ebola Symposium earlier this week to help bring together experts on the topic of Ebola, its treatment and prevention.
NIH said they are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of patients, NIH staff and the public.
Pham released a statement two days ago while in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian, according to CBS Dallas-Fort Worth.
“I’m doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers,” the statement from Pham read. “I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.”
A second nurse, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, recently tested positive for Ebola as well. She had also cared for Duncan. Vinson was transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Ga.
Rick Ritter will have more on this story tonight.
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