Texas nurse Amber Vinson was discharged Tuesday from Emory University Hospital, becoming the fourth patient with Ebola to be successfully treated at the Atlanta facility.
“I’m so grateful to be well,” Vinson said in a statement to reporters. “With God, all things are possible.”
Vinson, 29, and fellow nurse Nina Pham, 26, contracted Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a recent arrival from West Africa who died of the disease early this month.
The two women remain the only people known to have been infected with the disease within the United States. Their diagnoses a few days apart raised fears across the nation, but did not signal a wave of infections. Pham was released last week after successful treatment at a National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Md.
The recovery of Vinson leaves only one person in America known to have an active case of Ebola: Craig Spencer, a New York City doctor who recently returned from West Africa. He is being treated at Bellevue Hospital.
Vinson thanked her caregivers Tuesday.
“While this is a day for celebration and gratitude, I ask that we not lose focus on the thousands of families who continue to labor under the burden of this disease in West Africa,” she said.
Dr. Bruce Ribner, the medical director of Emory’s Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, said that after successfully treating four Ebola-infected patients at the facility’s isolation unit, doctors had learned the importance of fluid and electrolyte management. In the three-nation Ebola “hot zone” in West Africa, where thousands have died, many people lack access to basic health care.
When asked by reporters why Vinson and Pham recovered fairly quickly from the virus, Ribner said, “The honest answer is that we’re not exactly sure.”
He said the two nurses’ youth and the circumstances of how they contracted Ebola may have been factors.
“They are two of the youngest patients treated in developed countries,” he said. “We know from a lot of data that younger patients do much better than patients who are older.”
He also noted that they wore protective gear while treating Duncan.
President Obama on Tuesday urged Americans to set aside their fears of the Ebola virus and make sure U.S. health care workers who serve in West Africa are “applauded, thanked and supported” when they return home.
If those workers are successful in fighting the virus at the source of the outbreak, he said, “we don’t have to worry about it here.”
“They are doing God’s work over there,” Obama said, “and they are doing that to keep us safe.”
The World Health Organization says there have been more than 10,000 Ebola cases in West Africa dating back to the beginning of the outbreak at the end of last year, and nearly 5,000 deaths.