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Nina Pham walked out of the hospital and into the White House.
Two weeks after she tested positive for Ebola, the Dallas nurse was declared free of the virus Friday and discharged from the Washington-area hospital where she had been treated in a special containment unit.
A short time later, she was in the Oval Office with President Barack Obama, who hugged her.
“I do not know how I can ever thank everyone enough for their prayers and the expressions of concern, hope and love,” Pham told reporters outside the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, where she walked outside to applause. She said she felt “fortunate and blessed.”
Pham, 26, was infected while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who later died at Pham’s hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian. She was the first person to contract the virus on American soil.
Fifteen days after she tested positive, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, pronounced her “cured of Ebola.”
She credited her medical team and God, and said she looked forward to going home to Texas and reuniting with her dog — Bentley, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that was quarantined after Pham tested positive. The dog tested negative for the virus earlier this week.
Asked whether any special measures or restrictions would be in place for Pham’s travel back to Dallas, Fauci said he could not discuss it because it was private.
The other nurse infected at the Dallas hospital, Amber Vinson, tested virus-free earlier this week, her family said. She has remained in a biocontainment unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for a few more days of treatment. The hospital said Friday that Vinson is “making good progress.”
Authorities have not said definitively how the nurses were infected.
Pham said that the experience had been “very stressful and challenging” and said it could be a while before she has her strength back.
Pham thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, a recovered Ebola patient who donated plasma to her. She also asked for prayers for Dr. Craig Spencer, the New York City doctor who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday.
She told reporters: “I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me.”