DALLAS — A Dallas nurse infected with Ebola while treating the first patient diagnosed in the U.S. has received a plasma transfusion from a doctor who beat the virus.
Nurse Nina Pham was among about 70 staff members at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, according to medical records. The 26-year-old nurse was in the Liberian man’s room often, from the day he was placed in intensive care until the day before he died last week.
Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields — and sometimes full-body suits — when caring for Duncan, but she became the first person to contract the disease within the United States. Duncan died Wednesday.
Health care workers including Pham were told to monitor themselves by taking their temperatures. She went to the hospital Friday night after finding she had a fever.
Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people in an outbreak the World Health Organization has called “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.” Federal health officials say they are ramping up training for medical workers who deal with the infected.
Members of the church Pham’s family attends held a special Mass for her in Fort Worth on Monday night. Rev. Jim Khoi, of the Our Lady of Fatima Church, said Pham’s mother told him the nurse had received a transfusion that could save her life.
“Her mom says that she got the blood from the gentleman, a very good guy. I don’t know his name but he’s very devoted and a very good guy from somewhere,” Khoi said.
Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the nonprofit medical mission group Samaritan’s Purse, confirmed that the plasma donation came from Kent Brantly, the first American to return to the U.S. from Liberia to be treated for Ebola. Brantly received an experimental treatment and fought off the virus, and has donated blood to three others, including Pham.
“He’s a doctor. That’s what he’s there to do. That’s his heart,” Blume said.
Brantly said in a recent speech that he also offered his blood for Duncan, but that their blood types didn’t match.
Khoi said Pham’s mother assured him the nurse was comfortable and “doing well,” and that the two women had been able to talk via Skype. She was in isolation and in stable condition, health officials said. Another unidentified person who had close contact with her has also been isolated as a precaution.
Since Pham tested positive for Ebola, public-health authorities have intensified their monitoring of other hospital workers who cared for Duncan.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden said he would not be surprised if more fall ill because Ebola patients become more contagious as the disease progresses.
Pham’s name appears frequently throughout the hundreds of pages of medical records provided to The Associated Press by Duncan’s family. They show she was in his room Oct. 7, the day before he died.
Her notes describe nurses going in and out of his room wearing protective gear to treat him and to mop the floor with bleach.
She also notes how she and other nurses ensured Duncan’s “privacy and comfort,” and provided “emotional support.”
Frieden has said a breach of protocol led to the nurse’s infection, but officials are not sure what went wrong. Pham has not been able to point to any specific breach.
Among the things the CDC will investigate is how the workers took off protective gear, because removing it incorrectly can lead to contamination. Investigators will also look at dialysis and intubation — the insertion of a breathing tube in a patient’s airway. Both procedures have the potential to spread the virus.
Members of a Texas task force on Ebola have scheduled their first public hearing for next week. They’ll develop recommendations and a comprehensive state plan to deal with emerging infectious diseases.
Officials said there was a dog in the nurse’s apartment that has been removed to an undisclosed location for monitoring and care. They do not believe the pet shows any signs of Ebola. A dog belonging to an infected Spanish nurse was euthanized, drawing thousands of complaints.
Ebola has killed more than 4,000 people, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.