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US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says


President Barack Obama hugs Dallas nurse Nina Pham as her mother Diane looks on, Oval Office, Washington, Oct. 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama hugs Dallas nurse Nina Pham as her mother Diane looks on, Oval Office, Washington, Oct. 24, 2014.

A U.S nurse who caught Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient has now been released from the hospital virus-free and has met with President Barack Obama.

Obama gave a hug to Nina Pham in the White House Friday shortly after she was discharged from the National Institutes of Health's hospital outside Washington.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the president was not at all worried that there was any risk in hugging Pham.

Watch related video report by VOA's George Putic

One US Ebola Patient Cured, Another Stricken
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President Barack Obama meets with Ebola survivor Nina Pham, White House, Oct. 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama meets with Ebola survivor Nina Pham, White House, Oct. 24, 2014.

Pham, a nurse at a Dallas, Texas hospital that treated the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., told reporters and supporters earlier Friday that she is grateful for her recovery. She added that she is mindful of others who are still struggling with the illness, particularly another Dallas nurse, Amber Vinson, who was also infected after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

"Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be a while before I get my strength back," said Pham. She asked for privacy as she recovered further. She planned to head back to Dallas to reunite with her family and her dog Bentley.

Watch related video report by VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez

Despite Gains, Obama Still Facing Ebola Criticism
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Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH said Friday that Pham "is cured of Ebola. Let's get that clear." He said Pham was not given any experimental drugs while at NIH and said her youth and previous good health may have helped her beat the virus.

Pham had received a transfusion of blood plasma from Ebola survivor Kent Brantly, an American physician who had contracted the virus while treating patients in Liberia.

Health officials say Vinson, the other Dallas nurse who is being treated for Ebola, no longer has detectable levels of the virus, but they say they have no date yet for her to be discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.

WHO anticipates vaccine

Also Friday, an official with the World Health Organization predicted hundreds of thousands of Ebola vaccine doses will be ready by June.

Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director-general, said two leading vaccine candidates are already in clinical trials and five more experimental vaccines are being developed for clinical trials next year.

"Before the end of first half of 2015 … we could have available a few hundred thousand doses. That could be 200,000 – it could be less or could be more," Kieny said at a news conference after a meeting in Geneva of industry executives, global health experts, drug regulators and funders.

"As we accelerate in a matter of weeks a process that typically takes years, we are ensuring that safety remains a top priority, with production speed and capacity a close second," she said. "A vaccine is not a magic bullet, but when ready, [vaccines] may be a good part of the effort to turn the tide of this epidemic."

Kieny said safety results of the most advanced clinical trials will be available in December. If they're positive, clinical trials to test the effectiveness of these vaccines will start in the Ebola-affected countries in December, instead of January as had been previously planned, she said.

People on the front lines of the Ebola fight, including health workers, ambulance drivers, contact tracers and people in charge of funerals, will have priority in testing the vaccine, Kieny said.

Donor countries have committed to finance the research, Kieny said. "There is a broad understanding that money will not be an issue" in developing an Ebola vaccine, Reuters news agency quoted her as saying.

New York confirms case

Also Friday, the New York City health commissioner said a third Ebola patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, is in stable condition. On Thursday, Spencer, who recently treated Ebola victims in Guinea, became the first person in New York City to be diagnosed with the virus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has confirmed Spencer has been placed in isolation at Belleview Hospital Center and the general public has no cause for alarm. Officials are searching for people who may have had contact with Spencer before he was hospitalized.

"Ebola is an extremely hard disease to contract," de Blasio said. "New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person's bodily fluids are not at all at risk."

Spencer on Thursday had notified the medical charity Doctors Without Borders, with whom he’d worked, that he had a high fever and nausea — two symptoms of Ebola.

Officials are looking for anyone who may have had contact with Spencer. He is the fourth person diagnosed with Ebola on U.S. soil, and the first in New York.

Mali case may signal setback

In another development Friday, the WHO says Mali's first Ebola case, which was confirmed on Thursday, had contact with many people while traveling through the country by bus. Many warn the new development could represent another major setback to African efforts to contain the disease.

Health Minister Ousmane Kone said on state television the patient is a 2-year-old girl who was brought to a hospital from neighboring Guinea. She had traveled with her grandmother, Kone said, adding, "It is possible that these two people arrived at a time when the symptoms were not detectable."

The girl's condition is improving, thanks to quick treatment in the western town of Kayes, Kone said.

The Ebola outbreak – concentrated in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – has killed close to 4,900 people. There are almost 10,000 confirmed or probable cases.

EU secures $1.25 billion to fight Ebola

European Union leaders on Friday announced they have secured $1.25 billion to help fight the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The announcement followed a summit of EU member nations in Brussels on Thursday.

So far, there have only been scattered cases of Ebola reported in the United States and Europe.

Even so, U.S. government health officials are ordering travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to monitor their health for 21 days and give local health departments daily reports.

The monitoring program starts Monday in six eastern states – Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia – where the majority of those travelers arrive. They will be given an Ebola kit, including a thermometer, upon arriving at airports.

New York ‘ready’

In the latest case in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said Dr. Spencer was familiar with symptoms and handled himself appropriately once he experienced symptoms.

Cuomo said the city is "as ready as one can be for this circumstance" and has been preparing for weeks to handle a possible Ebola case.

The White House said President Obama spoke separately late Thursday with de Blasio and Cuomo, assuring them both of "any additional federal support necessary."

Obama also noted "the extensive preparations that New York City and, in particular, Bellevue Hospital Center … have undertaken to prepare for this contingency."

The earlier Ebola cases in the U.S. include a Liberian man who died two weeks ago at a hospital in Dallas, Texas. Two nurses who treated him are hospitalized and reportedly doing well.

Lisa Schlein contributed reporting from Geneva. Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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