By Alexandra Sifferlin
October 28, 2014

A Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for the first patient diagnosed with the virus in the U.S. was declared free of the disease Tuesday and released from the hospital.

“As a nurse, and now as someone who knows what its like to be cared for in a life-threatening illness, I am so thankful,” Amber Vinson, 29, told reporters as she was discharged from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Vinson had cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first U.S. patient, who later died.

“After a rigorous course of treatment and thorough testing we have determined that Ms. Vinson has recovered from her infection with Ebola virus, and she can return to her family community and her life without any concerns,” said Dr. Bruce Ribner, the head medical director of Emory’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit. “We are pleased for Ms. Vinson’s recovery and thankful for the opportunity to apply our training, care, and experience in meeting her medical needs.”

Vinson also thanked missionaries Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who also survived Ebola, for their donations of blood plasma to herself and other patients with Ebola, an experimental treatment that might have contributed to her recovery.

“Nurses are on the front lines 24 hours a day,” Ribner said. “We must not let fear get in the way of our primary mission which is caring for patients with serious disease such as Ebola virus infection.”

The hospital said last week that the virus was no longer detectible in Vinson’s blood, but that she was being kept in the hospital for continued supportive care. Vinson is the fourth patient treated by Emory, which has a specialized unit for Ebola care that has been hailed as a national model. So far all four patients treated at the hospital have survived, including Brantly and Writebol.

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