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Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who became the first person to contract Ebola on U.S. soil, is now free of the virus and has been discharged from a special facility at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

Speaking at a news conference, Pham said in a statement that she felt "fortunate and blessed" and put her trust "in God and my medical team."

"I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people around the world were praying for me," she said.

"Although I no longer have Ebola, I know it may be awhile before I get my strength back," said Pham, who contracted the virus while treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan. She asked for the media to respect her privacy.

She said she was looking forward to returning to Texas, where she will "reunite with my dog, Bentley."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was an honor to treat Pham and get to know "such an extraordinary individual."

He said the institute had done five tests on Pham's blood and found no virus. He stressed that five tests was more than the number needed to draw such a conclusion, but "this is a research institution ... that's not the norm."

Pham's discharge comes two days after fellow nurse Amber Vinson's family said she had been declared free of the virus and a day after Craig Spencer, a physician who returned to New York after treating Ebola patients in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders, was said to have the potentially deadly virus.

Meanwhile, The White House has announced that President Barack Obama met with Dallas nurse Nina Pham on Friday afternoon in the Oval Office.  "I feel fortunate and blessed to be standing here today," Pham told reporters on Friday. "I know that it may be awhile before I have my strength back so with gratitude and respect ... I ask for my privacy and my family's privacy."
File image: A volunteer receives an Ebola vaccination in Bamako, Mali

In Mali, dozens of people are being monitored  after the country confirmed its first case of Ebola.

The patient is a two-year-old girl who recently arrived from Guinea, which along with Liberia and Sierra Leone has seen most of the 4,800 deaths.

She was brought to a local hospital on Wednesday and her blood sample was Ebola-positive.

However, the Malian health ministry says her condition is now improving. The girl is being treated in the western town of Kayes. A statement from Mali's health ministry said her condition was improving considerably, thanks to good treatment.

The girl's mother died in Guinea a few weeks ago and the child was then brought by relatives to Mali. Many Malians have friends and family in Guinea and several buses and taxis travel between the two countries each day.

With the support of the WHO, Mali's health system has been preparing for an outbreak of Ebola for several months. But there is a culture here of visiting people when they are sick to wish them a speedy recovery. This will have to change if Ebola becomes more widespread.

With porous borders, countries neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia are on high alert for possible imported cases of the virus.

People are afraid in Mali's capital, Bamako, but life is carrying on as normal. A few people have stopped shaking hands but physically greeting people is an important part of life in Mali and for most this has not changed.

Malian authorities have now quarantined and are monitoring 43 people who have been in contact with the infected girl. They include 10 health workers.

The WHO has three experts in Mali evaluating its ability to cope with Ebola and will send at least four more over the next few days, spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has meanwhile announced that hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses should be available in the first half of 2015.

WHO Assistant Director Dr Marie-Paule Kieny told a news conference in Geneva that five more vaccines would be in the clinical trial stage in January. Two are already being tested on humans.

"The pharmaceutical companies developing these vaccines, as well as the ones which are a little bit further along the development path, are committing to ramping up the production capacity to millions of doses to be available in 2015 with hundreds of thousands ready in the first half of next year," she said.

Vaccine trials in the worst-affected countries could begin in December, Dr Kieny said.

In other developments, an international team of scientists has been set up to determine the effectiveness of using the blood of Ebola survivors as a treatment. It is hoped the antibodies used by the immune system to fight Ebola can be transferred from a survivor to a patient.

European Union leaders agreed to increase their financial help on fighting Ebola in West Africa from some 600 million euros ($758m; £743m) to one billion.

Mali has now become the sixth West African country to be affected by the outbreak, although Senegal and Nigeria have since been declared virus-free by the WHO.


News report from BBC and NPR were used in this compilation


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