Nurse with Ebola 'exposure' admitted to NIH hospital

The American nurse was exposed to Ebola while treating patients in Sierra Leone, like the health worker shown here.

Story highlights

  • The NIH admits patient who was exposed to Ebola
  • NIH: "situation presents minimal risk"
  • The patient is an American nurse who was volunteering in Sierra Leone
  • UN says its concentrating on western Sierra Leone
The National Institutes of Health admitted a patient with exposure to the Ebola virus to the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland Thursday afternoon "out of an abundance of caution," the NIH said.
The patient -- an American nurse who volunteered at an Ebola treatment unit in the West African nation of Sierra Leone -- "has been admitted to the NIH Clinical Center's special clinical studies unit that is specifically designed to provide high-level isolation capabilities and is staffed by infectious diseases and critical care specialists," the federal medical research agency said in a statement. "NIH is taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our patients, NIH staff, and the public. This situation presents minimal risk to any of them."
The NIH hospital outside Washington is one of a handful in the United States specially equipped to treat patients with highly infectious diseases like Ebola. NIH said that it wouldn't be divulging any additional details about the patient at this time.
U.N. 'concentrating' on Sierra Leone
The vast majority of the more than 18,000 confirmed and suspected cases, and the more than 6,500 deaths, in the latest Ebola outbreak have been in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization. And at more than 8,000 cases, Sierra Leone has had the most cases of any country.
The United Nations' point man on Ebola briefed reporters Thursday on his recent trip to the stricken region.
"In Sierra Leone, in the east of the country, transmission has reduced," said Dr. David Nabarro. "(But in) the west of the country, there is intense transmission and we're concentrating on that area."
Overall, however, Nabarro was encouraged by the improvements he saw since his visit in September. "(I'm) confident that we're going in the right direction."
Several people who have been treated at American hospitals were first diagnosed with the virus in the region. There have been some exceptions, like Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan, who was diagnosed at a Dallas hospital, where he died.
One of the nurses who treated Duncan, Nina Pham, caught Ebola and underwent treatment at the National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland. The NIH declared her Ebola-free in late October.
Nabarro said he was "delighted" by Time Magazine naming Ebola fighters as the publication's 'Person of the Year.'
"People working on this response -- thousands of people, from the region and outside -- really are amazing," he said. "Putting their lives on the line, continuing the effort, sometimes they just want to stay because they feel they can't stop until the job is done."