Nurse with Ebola to be moved to NIH in Bethesda

WASHINGTON – The first person to contract Ebola in the U.S. is headed to the Washington D.C. area.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a congressional hearing Thursday that nurse Nina Pham is being transferred from a Dallas hospital, where she is listed in good condition, to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

The clinical center has a seven-bed unit that is uniquely qualified to treat Ebola cases.

The Special Clinical Studies Unit is one of four bio-containment units in the entire country. It has a state-of the-art isolation capability and a staff that is highly trained in dealing with infectious diseases.

NIH says Pham is being transferred at the request of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she picked up Ebola while caring for a Liberian man, Thomas Duncan who later died of the disease.

Hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said Thursday the move is necessary because numerous employees are being monitored for symptoms of the virus and aren’t available to work, according to the Associated Press.

“With so many of the medical professionals who normally staff our intensive care unit sidelined for the continuous monitoring, we felt it was in the best interest of the hospital’s employees, the nurses, the physicians, the community, to give the hospital an opportunity to prepare for tomorrow … for whatever comes next,” Watson said.

In a statement, NIH says it is “taking every precaution to ensure the safety of NIH patients, staff and the public.”

NIH only says that Pham will arrive later Thursday.

A second nurse who also became ill after treating Duncan was transferred to a similar biohazard infectious disease center at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

Both nurse wore protective gear including face shields, hazardous materials suits and protective footwear as they inserted catheters, drew blood and dealt with his body fluids. Still, the two somehow contracted Ebola.

Federal health officials said Thursday they still don’t know how the nurses caught the virus from Duncan.

Pham will be flown to Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland, a small airport about 35 miles northwest of the NIH, and bypass major commercial airports. State police, the city and the county are coordinating to ensure she has a quick trip to the hospital, Frederick City Police Lt. Clark Pennington said Thursday.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and on Facebook.

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