Dallas nurse infected with Ebola identified as 26-year-old Nina Pham

The Dallas nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States while caring for a dying Liberian patient has been identified as 26-year-old Nina Pham. -- PHOTO: PHAM FAMILY
The Dallas nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States while caring for a dying Liberian patient has been identified as 26-year-old Nina Pham. -- PHOTO: PHAM FAMILY

DALLAS - The Dallas nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola in the United States while caring for a dying Liberian patient has been identified as 26-year-old Nina Pham by Dallas TV broadcaster WFAA.

Reuters independently verified her identity with a Sunday school teacher at the church where her family worships and through a public records check of her address. Attempts to reach her family were not immediately successful.

The Daily MailOnline reported that Pham is from a Vietnamese family, and that her uncle, Jason Nguyen, had confirmed that she is the one who contracted Ebola while treating "patient zero" Thomas Eric Duncan.

The MailOnline reported Nguyen saying: "My sister (Nina's mother) is very upset. We all are. She said she was going up to the hospital in Dallas and I haven't heard from her since. I've tried to all but I can't get through. It's very shocking.

"Nina is very hard working. She is always up at the hospital in Dallas."

The family was in shock when it learned the young woman had contracted Ebola, said Tom Ha, a close friend of the Pham family who is also a Bible studies teacher at the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Fort Worth.

"The mother was crying, very upset," he told Reuters.

Dr Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said health authorities are still investigating how Pham became infected while caring for Duncan in an isolation ward at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. Pham is "clinically stable", Frieden said, and the CDC is monitoring others involved in Duncan's care in case they show symptoms of the virus.

"We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control. Even a single infection is unacceptable," Frieden told reporters. "The care of Ebola is hard. We're working to make it safer and easier."

He also apologised for remarks on Sunday, when Pham's infection was first disclosed, that suggested she was responsible for a breach in protocols that exposed her to the virus. Some health-care experts said the comments failed to address deep gaps in training hospital staff to deal with Ebola.

"I'm sorry if that was the impression given," Frieden said. He said the agency would take steps to increase the awareness of Ebola at the nation's hospitals and training for staff.

US President Barack Obama met with Frieden and senior members of his administration later on Monday to discuss ways to ensure the country's health-care system was prepared to care for people with the virus, the White House said.

Obama was briefed about the second Dallas case and stressed that "lessons learned" from the CDC's investigation should be shared with hospitals and health-care workers across the country, the White House said..

Obama also spoke separately with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and with French President Francois Hollande about international efforts to contain the outbreak and to provide treatment centres in affected African nations.

Meanwhile, Louisiana's top law enforcement official said he would file a temporary restraining order to prevent the personal items of Duncan, who died on Wednesday, from being buried in a local landfill, even after being incinerated.

Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said material collected from Duncan and the Dallas apartment where he was staying was taken to Port Arthur, Texas, on Friday to be processed at the Veolia Environmental Services incinerator. From there the incinerated material would go to a hazardous waste landfill in Louisiana.

"There are too many unknowns at this point, and it is absurd to transport potentially hazardous Ebola waste across state lines," Caldwell said in a statement. According to CDC guidelines, the Ebola virus does not survive on materials that have been incinerated.

The current Ebola outbreak is the worst on record and has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in West Africa's Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Duncan, a Liberian, was exposed to Ebola in his home country and developed the disease while visiting the United States.

Ebola, which can cause fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood or saliva.

The infection of Pham is the second known to have occurred outside West Africa since the outbreak that began in March. It follows that of a nurse's aide in Spain who helped treat a missionary from Sierra Leone, who died of the virus.

Officials said Pham's pet dog, a one-year-old King Charles Spaniel named Bentley, would be kept safe while its owner was in the hospital.

That contrasts with the dog of the health worker in Spain that was euthanised out of fear the animal could spread the disease, prompting protests from animal rights activists.

With additional information from Reuters