Nina Pham, one of two nurses infected with the Ebola virus while caring for a patient in Dallas, will be transferred to a National Institutes of Health clinical center in Bethesda, officials and the NIH said Thursday.
Pham's transfer to the facility, one of four in the United States with a special biocontainment unit, will occur Thursday evening, according to Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who was testifying at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday afternoon. He said Pham would receive "state of the art care" there.
Fauci said that he has been told that Pham is “stable” and “doing reasonably well,” but added that he hasn't seen her himself yet. The facility has only two beds, he said.
Pham, 26, is one of two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who came down with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who arrived in Dallas with the virus. The other, Amber Vinson, 29, has been transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Duncan later died of the disease.
The hospital released a statement later Thursday saying that "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 Nina, hospital employees, nurses, physicians and the community to give the hospital an opportunity to prepare for whatever comes next."
The statement quoted Pham thanking friends, family, co-workers and strangers for their support. "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."
Last month, an American physician who was stuck by a needle while volunteering at an Ebola treatment center in Sierra Leone was brought to NIH, where he was admitted for observation and enrolled in a clinical study. The patient was discharged after nine days. In a news release at the time of the unidentified patient's release, NIH said he "feels well and has no active fever."
The infections of Pham and Vinson are the result of a string of mistakes made by the hospital and the government that is the subject of the Capitol Hill hearing. In prepared remarks, the hospital apologized for misdiagnosing Duncan and sending him home before admitting him with Ebola three days later. Nurses have complained that they had not been well-trained in the use of "personal protective equipment" that health care workers must wear while treating Ebola patients. And Vinson, 29, was allowed to fly on a crowded aircraft from
Dallas to Cleveland Cleveland to Dallas over the weekend, despite reporting to the CDC that she had a temperature of 99.5 degrees. Fever is often the first symptom of Ebola infection.
The nurses are the first two victims of Ebola transmission on American soil during the current outbreak, which has dwarfed all others on record since the virus was discovered in 1976. According to the World Health Organization, there have been 8,997 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virus disease in seven countries, the vast majority of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The virus has killed 4,493 people, all but a handful in the three West African nations.
NIH said in a news release that its "special clinical studies unit is specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious disease and critical care specialists. The unit staff is trained in strict infection control practices optimized to prevent spread of potentially transmissible agents such as Ebola."