Obama embraces Ebola nurse

Obama embraces Ebola nurse
© Getty Images

President Obama embraced Nina Pham, the Dallas-area nurse declared free of Ebola earlier Friday, with a big hug on Friday, as the White House seeks to calm fears over the spread of the deadly virus.

The president greeted Pham and her family in the Oval Office, and photographers captured Obama wrapping his arms around the 26-year-old nurse.
 
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The gathering comes a day after a New York City doctor who traveled to West Africa to help fight Ebola was diagnosed with the virus, stoking new fears about its possible spread in the United States.
 
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said  the meeting "should be a pretty apt reminder that we do have the best medical infrastructure in the world, and certainly a medical infrastructure that’s in place to protect the American public."
 
"And the track record of treating Ebola patients in this country is very strong, particularly for those who are – you know, who are quickly diagnosed and admitted through the system," he continued.
 
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced earlier Friday that Pham would be discharged from its Bethesda, Md., facility. 
 
"She has no virus in her,” said Dr. Tony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “She feels well.”
 
Pham contracted the disease while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who traveled to the United States, tested positive for Ebola and subsequently died.
 
When the White House learned Pham was to be released Friday, officials contacted NIH to extend an invitation if she felt "up for it," Earnest said. Pham had tested negative for the virus on five occasions, and the White House did not implement additional screening protections for her visit.
 
"All the necessary testing that allowed her to safely return home with clean bill of health is the same guidance that she has gotten in terms of meeting the president," Earnest said.
 
The White House said only still photographers would be allowed into the meeting, indicating neither Obama nor Pham will speak to the media.
 
The occasion provides a high-profile opportunity for Obama to calm public anxiety by showing that Pham has recovered and that he has no reluctance to meet her in person.
 
"In this case, we determined that the still photographers would provide the access that was necessary to ensure that you and the American people were informed about this event," Earnest said.
 
Obama placed phone calls to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Thursday to offer federal assistance in the treatment of the doctor, 33-year-old Craig Spencer. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived Thursday night to assist.
 
The case will be the first major test of the president's new Ebola strategy, which was unveiled after Pham and another Dallas nurse, Amber Vinson, contracted the disease. Their infection prompted a series of questions about the federal strategy for containing the disease, and whether the Obama administration had done enough to prepare local hospitals for Ebola patients. 
Vinson was successfully treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and discharged earlier this week.
At a press conference at NIH, Pham credited her recovery to "the power of prayer."
“I am on my way back to recovery even as I reflect on how many others have not been so fortunate,” Pham said.
 
This story was updated at 2:35 p.m.