Texas nurse stricken with Ebola: young and caring

FORT WORTH (Reuters) - The woman who is the first person known to have contracted the Ebola virus in the United States graduated from college about four years ago knowing she wanted to be a nurse. Now she is in an isolation unit at the Dallas hospital where she worked.

A Dallas police officer and a Dallas Fire Department Community officer, Shawn Williams (R) stand in front of the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola in Dallas, Texas, October 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jaime R. Carrero

The nurse, whose name has not been released by officials, has been identified by friends and family and in media reports as Nina Pham, 26. Reuters independently verified her identity with a Sunday school teacher at the church where her family worships and through a public records check of her address.

Pham, a 2010 graduate of Texas Christian University, comes from a deeply religious Vietnamese-American family in Fort Worth, according to people who know them and are familiar with her social media posts. She was called on by neighbors to babysit their children. Her social media posts show she is a fan of actor Ryan Gosling and passionate about nursing.

The family was in shock when it learned that she had contracted Ebola, said their friend Tom Ha who is also a Bible studies teacher at the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Fort Worth.

“The mother was crying, very upset,” he said. “She comes from a very devoted family.”

Her family has not responded to requests for comment.

Officials have said that Nina Pham had frequent contact with Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan over the 11 days he was treated for Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Duncan died on Wednesday.

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She was among 50 people asked by the hospital to take part in the delicate and difficult care of Duncan, who was the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Officials have said they do not know how Pham contracted the deadly virus. She was in stable condition on Monday. [ID:nL2N0S814O]

Pham was thrilled when she became a registered nurse and obtained credentials as a critical care nurse, the Dallas Morning News reported based on an August posting on her Facebook site, which has been taken down.

She owns a 1-year-old King Charles Spaniel that has been taken from her apartment to an undisclosed location where its health will be checked, according to the office of Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, the county’s chief political official.

Last week authorities in Spain last week killed a dog owned by a healthcare worker there who has Ebola. They said the dog, called Excalibur, posed a biological risk and that there was evidence dogs could carry the virus. [ID:nL6N0S333Q]

On Monday, hazardous materials crews were at Pham’s apartment.

Jenkins called her a hero.

Additional reporting by Lisa Maria Garza and Terry Wade in Dallas; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham, Toni Reinhold