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Nina Pham, the Ebola-infected nurse flown from a Dallas hospital to a National Institutes of Health isolation unit, is doing well, sitting up and eating, doctors said Friday. Pham, 26, is one of two health-care workers infected while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital on Oct. 8.
"She (is) in fair condition," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters outside the Bethesda, Maryland hospital. "We fully intend to have this patient walk out of this hospital."
Pham is tired after a long trip, hospital officials told reporters outside the NIH clinical center, a large research hospital that has a special isolation unit. "She is resting comfortably, She is interacting with the staff. She is eating," said Dr. Rick Davey, deputy clinical director at the NIAID, one of the NIH institutes, who examined Pham.
But she's also going to have ups and downs as her body fights off the virus, said Fauci. "You may start seeing a change in the status," he said. Ebola patients suffer often violent vomiting and diarrhea. "She is very fatigued," Fauci said. "This is a virus that wreaks havoc on you. This virus knocks you out."
In a video released by the hospital Thursday, Pham bid an emotional goodbye to her Dallas-based doctors Thursday, telling them, “I love you guys,” before her flight. A second nurse who treated Duncan and contracted Ebola, Amber Vinson, was flown Wednesday to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
"She is getting optimal intensive care ... but it also being done with the optimal protection of our health care workers," Fauci added. "She's a trooper. She's very brave."
Pham will get intensive treatment, but having her at NIH also provides the opportunity to study her body's response to the virus, her doctors said.
Pham, who got a dose of antibody-laden serum from Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, may also get experimental treatment.
“Putting aside Nina and asking can a patient that got one drug one experimental therapy also get another, the answer is yes,” Fauci said. “But we have to be careful. These are all experimental drugs. None of them have proven to be effective.”
She'll have two nurses in the room with her at any given time, with two others outside to watch and make sure all protocols are followed. "Just out of an abundance of caution we always like to have the buddy system," said Davey. That's just what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends: having someone to "spot" caregivers and make sure they don't make a mistake that could get them infected.