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Dallas nurse Nina Pham free from Ebola

Pham is one of two nurses who contracted Ebola while treating a Liberian man in Texas who later died of the virus

Nina Pham, the first nurse diagnosed with Ebola after treating an infected man at a Dallas hospital has been declared virus-free and released from medical care, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said Friday.

Looking healthy and upbeat and flanked by her mother and sister, Pham read a statement during a news conference on Friday afternoon in Bethesda, Maryland, saying she was "fortunate and blessed to be standing here today." 

"I would like to thank God, my family and friends. Through this ordeal, I have put my trust in God and my medical team," she said. "As a nurse, I have a special appreciation for the care I have received from so many people." 

She also thanked Dr. Kent Brantly, a fellow Ebola survivor, who donated plasma containing Ebola-fighting antibodies as part of her treatment.

Pham, 26, arrived last week at the NIH Clinical Center in Maryland. She was flown there on Oct. 16 from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the NIH, gave Pham a hug and told reporters that five consecutive tests showed no virus left in her blood. 

"Our patient Nina Pham is free from the Ebola virus," Fauci said. "She has no virus. She feels well. She looks extraordinarily well." 

Five tests is beyond the norm, he stressed, but his team did extra testing for research purposes as medical officials seek to gain a better understanding of the deadly virus and how to treat it. Fauci also said it was "impossible to say" whether the plasma donation from Brantly played a role in her recovery. 

Pham, one of two nurses in Dallas who became infected with Ebola while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian who died of the virus on Oct. 8, asked for privacy as she looks to resume a normal life. 

Amber Vinson, the other nurse infected with Ebola, is "making good progress in her treatment," and "tests no longer detect the virus in her blood," Emory University Hospital, where she is being treated, said in a statement Friday. 

Vinson continues to receive medical care at the hospital and has yet to be cleared for release.

New York City health officials said on Friday that Craig Spencer, a physician who worked with Doctors Without Borders treating Ebola patients in West Africa, was in stable condition after testing positive for the virus a day earlier.

He is being treated at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan and sought medical care on Thursday after coming down with a fever and diarrhea, both symptoms of the virus. City Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett said Friday that Spencer, who arrived at JFK Airport on Oct. 17, had no temperature elevation before Thursday, so it’s unlikely that he was contagious before then.

In a statement on Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told residents that Spencer’s case was not a cause for concern.

"We want to state at the outset that New Yorkers have no reason to be alarmed" by Spencer's diagnosis, said de Blasio, even as officials described Spencer riding the subway, taking a taxi and visiting a bowling alley since returning to New York. "New Yorkers who have not been exposed are not at all at risk."

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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