Ebola nurse to be transferred to DC suburb

The first Dallas healthcare worker infected with Ebola will be transferred to an isolation unit at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) near Washington, D.C.

The nurse, 26-year-old Nina Pham, will arrive in Bethesda, Md., after several days of care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed the transfer, first reported by NBC News, to lawmakers during a hearing on Ebola Thursday.

Pham had said in a statement Tuesday that she was being treated by the "best team of doctors and nurses in the world" in Dallas.

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She contracted Ebola after caring extensively for the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., Thomas Eric Duncan, who died Oct. 8.

Her case represents the first transmission of the virus in the United States and set off a wave of concern about hospitals' ability to stop Ebola's spread.

Officials characterized Pham's condition as "improving" on Wednesday. It is unclear whether a change in health status is prompting her transfer.

Texas Health Presbyterian has been criticized for its missteps in Ebola care, starting with a failure to admit Duncan, when he first sought care in late September. Nurses have also claimed they lacked training and full protective gear while caring for Duncan.

A representative of the hospital's parent company, Texas Health Resources, apologized to lawmakers in testimony submitted ahead of a congressional hearing Thursday.

"Despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical staff, we made mistakes," chief clinical officer Dr. Daniel Varga said in a prepared statement. "We did not correctly diagnose [Duncan's] symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry."

Pham released a statement Tuesday saying she was "doing well."

"I am blessed by the support of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas," she said.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), whose district includes the NIH, said Thursday that he had spoken with agency officials about Pham’s transfer.

"I've spoken with NIH Director Dr. [Francis S.] Collins, who has provided assurances that NIH is specifically equipped to handle patients infected with Ebola,” he said in a statement. “NIH has been on the front lines of this issue, and I commend Dr. Collins and his team for their leadership on this urgent challenge.

“I’m confident that all necessary steps and precautions will be taken to treat this patient and prevent the further spread of the disease,” Van Hollen added.

Pham's transfer to the NIH is not surprising, given a decision to move her colleague, Amber Vinson, to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta on Wednesday.

The facilities are two of four in the United States with special biocontainment units used to care for particularly infectious patients.

Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola late Tuesday.

This story was updated at 12:50 p.m.