DALLAS (CN) - Texas nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson have tested negative for Ebola, much to the relief of public health officials seeking to calm the public after the nation's fourth case was confirmed in New York City.
Pham, of Dallas, tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 12 after caring for original Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas.
Pham was placed into isolation and later taken via air ambulance to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, where she emerged Friday with a clean bill of health.
NIH director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that Pham is "cured of Ebola" at a jovial press conference Friday morning that concluded with Pham hugging NIH officials.
Pham thanked her medical team and God for her recovery, while noting that others have "not been so fortunate."
Pham said her prayers were with Vinson and Dr. Craig Spencer, who is under quarantine at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. Spencer tested positive for Ebola after returning from hard-hit Guinea while volunteering for Doctors Without Borders.
Pham also thanked Dr. Kent Brantley, another volunteer physician who was cured after contracting the disease in West Africa.
"I would especially like to thank Dr. Kent Brantly for his selfless act of donating plasma to me," Pham said. "As a nurse, I have a special appreciation for the care I have received from so many people. Not just doctors and nurses, but the entire support team."
Pham asked for privacy upon her return to Dallas, where she looks forward to reuniting with her family and her dog, Bentley, who is in the middle of the 21-day isolation period at Hensley Field in Grand Prairie.
"I hope that people understand that this illness and this whole experience have been very stressful and challenging for me and for my family," Pham said. "Although I no longer have Ebola, I know that it may be a while before I have my strength back."
NIH officials reiterated that Ebola survivors "are not contagious and can no longer spread the disease."
"We would not be releasing Ms. Pham if we were not completely confident in the knowledge that she has fully recovered, is virus free and poses no public health threat," the NIH said in a statement.
Texas Department of State Health Services director Dr. David Lackey said he was happy for Pham's recovery.
"Ms. Pham's recovery is a testament to her perseverance in the face of the disease, the excellent care she has received and the support she had of so many here in Texas and across the nation," Lackey said in a statement. "Ms. Pham is returning to Texas, where she will continue to rest and regain her strength, but there is nothing medically that will prevent her from resuming a normal life."
Barclay Berdan, CEO of Presbyterian parent Texas Health Resources, said Pham's coworkers are thrilled with her recovery and return to Dallas.
"Her colleagues and friends eagerly look forward to welcoming her back," he said. "Her courage and spirit, first in treating a critically ill Ebola patient and then in winning her own battle against the disease, has truly inspired all of us."
Immediately after her release, Pham met President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, where he hugged and thanked her for her "selfless" care for Duncan. The president took no special precautions to protect himself, since a "clean bill of health" from the NIH was enough, White House officials said.
Within an hour of Pham's release, Emory University Hospital officials in Atlanta announced that Vinson is no longer testing positive for Ebola, either.
"Tests no longer detect virus in her blood," Emory said in a statement. "She remains within Emory's Serious Communicable Diseases Unit for continued supportive care. We do not have a discharge date at this time."
Vinson tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 15, days after flying to and from Cleveland to plan her wedding.
Public health officials in Texas and Ohio then scrambled to identify and track possible contacts during her trip, resulting in the closure of several schools in both states.
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