- The Washington Times - Friday, October 24, 2014

Hailing it as a “very special moment,” the director of the National Institutes of Health said Friday the first nurse to contract Ebola while treating a patient in Dallas is cured and will be discharged from their campus in suburban Washington.

Nina Pham, 26, smiled as she appeared before the cameras outside the medical center, trading hospital clothes for a dark business suit and turquoise blouse.

“I believe in the power of prayer, because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me,” she said, thanking her caregivers and requesting privacy for herself and her family.

From there, she headed straight to the White House for a private meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office — a reflection of the administration’s attempts to calm fears about the virus.

Accompanied by her mother and sister, Ms. Pham embraced the president in a quick photo-op.

Earlier Friday, she thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, a fellow Ebola survivor who contracted the viral disease while working in Africa, for donating his blood plasma to her.

Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said multiple tests showed Ms. Pham had been cured.

“She has no virus in her. She feels well,” Dr. Fauci said. He praised Ms. Pham as a “courageous and lovely person.”

He declined to comment on where Ms. Pham might be headed Friday, or if she is barred from going certain places.

Ms. Pham had been taken to the medical center in Bethesda, Maryland, after testing positive in Texas. She contracted the virus from Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

Duncan died Oct. 8, and days later Ms. Pham and then a second nurse, 29-year-old Amber Vinson — both of whom treated Duncan during his worst throes from Ebola — tested positive for the virus.

Tests showed Friday that Ms. Vinson, too, is Ebola-free, although she remains hospitalized at Emory University in Atlanta.

Ms. Pham asked for more prayers for Ms. Vinson and doctor Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old who tested positive for Ebola late Thursday after treating patients in West Africa.

Although he was not symptomatic and likely not contagious, the doctor had been out bowling and used public transportation before he was hospitalized.

Dr. Spencer left Guinea on Oct. 14 and traveled through Brussels before arriving at JFK Airport last Friday, New York City officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city has the finest public health system in the world and is “fully prepared to handle Ebola.”

While Dr. Spencer did hang out in eateries and other places, the mayor tried to tamp down any fears in America’s largest city.

“Casual contact cannot lead to acquiring this disease,” Mr. de Blasio said.

He said if people have traveled to affected countries in West Africa and show symptoms of Ebola, they should either call 911 or head to an emergency room.

“Do not wait, do not hesitate,” he said.

The Ebola cases have reverberated on social and political levels, as lawmakers question the Obama administration’s reluctance to ban travelers from West Africa.

Republican Scott Brown, a former senator from Massachusetts trying to unseat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, leveraged the situation in a campaign attack Friday.

“Ebola has now spread to New York City, the largest city in the United States and less than 300 miles from New Hampshire. The person who brought it there passed through enhanced screening at the airport and exposed himself to countless other people by riding the subway, taking a taxi and going bowling,” he said, alleging Mrs. Shaheen is still “waffling on a travel ban.”

“The way to stop mass infection is by swift and decisive action, including a travel ban and quarantining health workers returning from countries where Ebola is prevalent,” he said. “This is not a time for political correctness; it’s a time for common-sense prevention mechanisms.”

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