ATLANTA (AFP) - A Texas nurse who was the second US health-care worker infected with Ebola while caring for a Liberian patient left the hospital on Tuesday after being declared cured of the virus.
“I’m so grateful to be well and first and foremost I want to thank God,” Amber Vinson, 29, said at a press conference at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia.
Wearing a grey suit and pink blouse, Vinson appeared healthy and smiled often, occasionally wiping away tears as the medical team at Emory University Healthcare surrounded her and her doctor spoke about her care.
She also thanked her family and the medical teams in Texas and Georgia, and asked for people to continue to work to eradicate the Ebola outbreak abroad.
“While this is a day for celebration and gratitude, I ask that we not lose focus on the thousands of families that continue to labour under the burden of this disease in West Africa.”
Her colleague Nina Pham, 26, who also worked in the intensive care unit of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was treated for Ebola at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland and was released on Friday.
Both became infected while caring for a Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed with Ebola in Texas after flying to the United States from his native Liberia, the country hardest hit by West Africa’s Ebola epidemic. He died on Oct 8.
Ebola has killed more than 4,900 people and infected more than 10,000 since the beginning of the year, according to the World Health Organisation.
Vinson’s story sparked alarm across the United States after the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said she flew on a domestic aeroplane from Texas to Ohio and back, and reported a low-grade fever before boarding the flight home.
The CDC cleared her for travel at the time – about a day before she was diagnosed with Ebola – but said later she should not have been travelling on a commercial airliner.
Vinson’s family hired a high profile Washington lawyer, Billy Martin, after issuing a statement earlier this month saying they were “troubled by some of the negative public comments and media coverage that mischaracterise Amber and her actions.”
"In no way was Amber careless prior to or after her exposure to Mr Thomas Eric Duncan. She has not and would not knowingly expose herself or anyone else,” it said.
The release of Vinson leaves just one patient in US hospital care for Ebola, doctor Craig Spencer, at Bellevue Hospital in New York.
She is the fourth person to have been successfully treated for Ebola at Emory University Hospital, after missionaries Kent and Nancy Writebol and another unnamed American doctor who was sickened in Sierra Leone.
Bruce Ribner, medical director of the serious communicable diseases unit at Emory University Hospital, said the hospital was pleased with Vinson’s quick recovery – she was admitted there two weeks ago – but said it was unclear exactly why she healed so fast.
Ribner said her young age might have helped, as well as the fact that she was wearing protective gear when she treated Duncan, though it remains unknown how she was infected.
“It is quite likely that the amount of virus that she was exposed to was substantially less than what we see in patients who get infected in less developed countries,” he said.