SOURCES: ABC News; NBC News; Oct. 23, 2014, The New York Times; U.S. National Institutes of Health
FRIDAY, Oct. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Nina Pham, the first of two Dallas nurses to be infected with Ebola while caring for a patient, is now free of the virus, officials at the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced Friday.
And on her way home to Texas, she got a special treat -- a visit to the White House and a hug from President Barack Obama, ABC News reported.
Speaking at a news briefing Friday morning outside the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., Pham, 26, said, "I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today."
Standing beside her mother and sister, she said, "I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on others who have not been so fortunate."
Pham has been treated at a special isolation unit at the NIH hospital since being moved there from Dallas on Oct. 16. She and a second nurse, Amber Vinson, 29, contracted Ebola while helping to treat Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
Duncan, a Liberian national, was the first Ebola patient to be diagnosed in the United States. He died of the illness on Oct. 8.
Vinson is also free of the virus after being cared for at a special biocontainment unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, according to a statement released by her family on Wednesday. Vinson has remained at Emory for a few more days before returning home, NBC News said.
Speaking at the NIH news briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that Pham has now tested negative for the Ebola virus on five separate tests, ABC News reported. He said that it is unclear which, if any, of the various treatments she received may have saved her.
Pham also expressed her thanks to Dr. Kent Brantly, the American missionary who contracted Ebola in Liberia and survived after treatment at Emory earlier this summer. He donated his own blood to Pham and other American Ebola patients because it is thought that antibodies in the blood might help fight the disease.
While the recovery of both Pham and Vinson is welcome news, a new case of Ebola infection in the United States was confirmed late Thursday. New York City resident Dr. Craig Spencer, a physician who had been helping to treat Ebola patients in the West African country of Guinea, has tested positive for the virus. He is currently being cared for in isolation at Bellevue Hospital, the New York Times reported.
Overall, eight Americans have been diagnosed with the often deadly virus that has been plaguing three West African nations -- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- since the spring.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials this week tightened guidelines for health care workers treating Ebola patients.
The new recommendations call for full-body suits and hoods with no skin exposure and use of a respirator at all times. There will also be stricter rules for removing equipment and disinfecting hands, and the designation of a "site manager" to supervise the putting on and taking off of equipment used while treating a patient.
The revised guidelines are apparently in response to the two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating Duncan.
Health officials aren't sure how the nurses became infected with Ebola.
But Fauci said Sunday that the nurses caring for Duncan had some of their skin exposed.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed nearly 4,900 people out of nearly 10,000 reported cases, according to the World Health Organization.
For more on Ebola, visit the World Health Organization.