Nina Pham, the first nurse to test positive for Ebola at a Dallas hospital, was listed in “fair” condition Friday and “resting comfortably” at a state-of-the-art facility at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland where she was transferred just before midnight.
“She is now here with us, her condition is fair, she is stable and resting comfortably in this unit,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., just outside Washington, D.C.
He said the 26-year-old nurse is “not deteriorating.”
“She is in good spirits,” he said. “She is a highly intelligent, aware person who knows exactly what’s going on, and she’s a really terrific person.”
Fauci added, “We fully intend to have this patient walk out of this hospital and we will do everything we possibly can to make that happen.”
NIH physician Richard Davey, who has been treating Pham, said she is sitting up in her room, which is attended 24 hours a day by two nurses.
“She’s interacting with the staff, she’s eating — she’s able to interact freely,” Davey said.
He said Pham is “doing quite well compared to what we were told about her status at the other hospital.”
Pham was flown to Bethesda from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas late Thursday aboard a special charter flight outfitted for highly infectious patients.
Fauci said she had a “long trip that was quite tiring” but was able to walk off the plane with assistance while wearing a protective suit. She climbed into an ambulance for transport to the NIH facility.
Pham contracted the virus while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national who died Oct. 8, at the Dallas hospital. A second nurse, Amber Vinson, 29, who also contracted the virus after treating Duncan, was transferred on Wednesday to a hospital in Atlanta.
In a video released by the Texas hospital before her departure from Dallas, Pham, said, “I’m doing really well.’
Officials at the Dallas hospital said Pham was transferred out of concern the Ebola crisis had left it overwhelmed and short of critical staff.
“With so many of the medical professionals who normally staff our intensive care unit sidelined for the continuous monitoring, we felt it was in the best interest of the hospital’s employees, the nurses, the physicians, the community, to give the hospital an opportunity to prepare for … whatever comes next,” hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said.
At NIH, Fauci said, Pham is being cared for by “nurses who are highly trained, highly prepared and highly experienced — that makes a difference.”
During a briefing with reporters, he said the NIH facility employs “infectious diseases experts who on a daily basis, notwithstanding Ebola, take care of the sickest possible patients.” Asked why NIH didn’t treat Duncan himself, Fauci said, a bit testily, “I believe it’s pretty obvious: The man was sick in Dallas and he went to the emergency room, and then the clinic, at Texas Presbyterian.”
Fauci declined to say why it took so long for the facility to get its first Ebola patient. “We have been prepared,” he said. “We had a special studies unit that was started in 2011, for the explicit purpose of being able to accept patients who have anything that either has to do with bioterror or emerging infectious diseases. We stood ready to accept the patient. When we were asked to accept the patient, we accepted the patient.”
He added, “There are more than one places that can well take care of people with Ebola, so I wouldn’t say this is the best possible place — I can only tell you this is a very, very good place.”
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