Darrell Preston and Zain Shauk (c) 2014, Bloomberg News.
DALLAS — The first person to contract Ebola in the U.S. has been identified as Nina Pham, 26, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died from the virus on Oct. 8.
Pham cared for Duncan multiple times during his stay at the hospital, health officials have said. Pham became a registered nurse in 2010, according to state records, and lived in a Dallas apartment building that city officials sealed off and cleaned starting Oct. 11.
Pham was identified by Tom Ha, a Haltom City Allstate insurance agent who said he attends Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Fort Worth with Diana Pham, Nina’s mother. Ha said the family is “in shock right now” and staying in seclusion.
“She is a hero,” said Ha, who also knows other family members through the church. “She knew the patient had Ebola but she treated him like any other patient.”
ABC’s Dallas television affiliate, WFAA, reported her identity Monday. At a prayer service, Jim Khoi, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima, and two others confirmed her identity.
Pham’s infection means the U.S. has to “rethink” care procedures, said Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at a press conference Monday. She was wearing full protective gear and following the protocol for treating infected people, said Dan Varga, chief clinical officer at Texas Health, at a press conference. Candace White, spokeswoman for the hospital, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Under safety procedures in place, Duncan’s caregivers were monitoring their own health during and after his treatment. There has only been one person who Pham may have had close contact with while she was contagious, Frieden said. Pham wasn’t among the 48 people who were being monitored because they may have been in contact with Duncan before he was placed in hospital isolation, according to Frieden.
Pham graduated in 2010 from Texas Christian University with a nursing degree, said Lisa Albert, a spokeswoman for the university.
More than 30 parishioners bowed their heads in prayer on Oct. 13 at Pham’s church. She had spent her childhood attending and volunteering at Our Lady of Fatima, according to Hung Le, president of the congregation. Now, the congregation’s updates on Pham have come from her mother, who is in contact with Pham through Skype, according to Le.
“Nina says to her mom that she’s fine, she’s doing well and that she’s comfortable,” Khoi said.
Pham did not hesitate to take up a role as part of the nursing staff treating Duncan, said Kim Tran, a friend of Pham’s mother. “She was not scared at all to be on the unit call to take care of Mr. Duncan,” Tran said. “She has always wanted to be a nurse and to take care of people.”
Dallas won’t kill Pham’s dog, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. Excalibur, the dog owned by a Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola, was euthanized. The Dallas canine will instead be sent to a new location to await its owner’s recovery. Rawlings wouldn’t give the dog’s name or breed.