NYC’s first Ebola patient in isolation amid city jitters

by admin on October 24, 2014

Yamiche Alcindor and Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY 9:28 a.m. EDT October 24, 2014

NEW YORK — A New York city doctor, who tested positive as the city’s first case of Ebola, is in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Friday while health officials take precautionary steps by retracing his recent travels around town and quarantining his fiancĂ© and close friends.

Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old emergency physician at New York Presbyterian Hospital, was placed in an isolation unit Thursday after reporting 103-degree fever and diarrhea, which are Ebola-like symptoms.

Police officers stand outside the home of Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders physician who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, on Thursday in New York. Spencer tested positive for the virus, according to preliminary test results, city officials said.John Minchillo/AP

Spencer, also a volunteer for Doctors without Borders, had returned less than a week ago from Guinea, one of the three countries in West Africa hardest hit by an outbreak of Ebola. The epidemic there has killed about 4,800 people and more than 440 health workers have contracted the disease and about half have died.

Four American aid workers, including three doctors, were infected with Ebola while working in Africa and were transferred to the U.S. for treatment in recent months. All recovered. Health care workers are vulnerable because of close contact with patients when they are their sickest and most contagious.

As word of Spencer’s hospitalization spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will do a further test to confirm the initial results of Ebola, dispatched a rapid response team to New York to monitor the case.

Health officials said Spencer had followed medical protocol by taking his own temperature twice a day and had refrained from seeing any of his New York patients until after the 21-day incubation period for Ebola, said NYC Health Commissioner Mary Bassett.

“He is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first,” New York Presbyterian Hospital said in a statement. “He has not been to work at our hospital and has not seen any patients at our hospital since his return from overseas. Our thoughts are with him, and we wish him all the best at this time. ”

President Obama spoke to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday night and offered the federal government’s support. He asked them to stay in close touch with Ron Klain, his “Ebola czar,” and public health officials in Washington.

At the same time, city and state officials moved quickly to reassure New Yorkers that the threat of Ebola spreading from Spencer was negligible.

“We want to state at the outset, there is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed,” said de Blasio, who was joined by the governor at a news conference Thursday evening. “New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person’s bodily fluids are not at risk.”

Health officials say the chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, are slim. Someone can’t be infected just by being near someone who is sick with Ebola. Someone isn’t contagious unless he is sick.

Still, it was a sign of the public jitters that officials took rapid steps to contain even the hint of a threat of the virus spreading.

The Brooklyn bowling alley Spencer recently visited was closed as a precaution, and Spencer’s Harlem apartment was cordoned off. The Department of Health was on site across the street from the apartment building Thursday night, giving out information to area residents.

Spencer’s fiancĂ© and two friends with whom he has been in contact were placed under quarantine, officials said. None of those people, in addition to an Uber driver with whom he rode, have symptoms, officials said. One contact has been hospitalized as a precaution, officials said.

“For the relevant period of time, he was only exposed to a very few people,” Cuomo said.

Spencer had also taken a three-mile jog, visited The High Line, a recreational area on the Hudson River Bassett said, and rode at least three lines in the city’s subway system.

She said the probability was “close to nil” that Spencer’s subway rides would pose a risk.

In the United States, the first person diagnosed with the disease was a Liberian man, who fell ill days after arriving in Dallas and later died, becoming the only fatality. None of his relatives who had contact with him got sick. Two nurses who treated him were infected and are hospitalized. The family of one nurse said doctors no longer could detect Ebola in her as of Tuesday evening.

Contributing: Associated Press

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: