NEW YORK (AP) – An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus, becoming the first case in the city and the fourth in the nation.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged residents not to be alarmed by the doctor’s Ebola diagnosis, even as they described him riding the subway, taking a cab and bowling. De Blasio said all city officials followed “clear and strong” protocols in their handling and treatment of him.
“We want to state at the outset that New Yorkers have no reason to be alarmed,” de Blasio said. “New Yorkers who have not been exposed are not at all at risk.”
The doctor, Craig Spencer, a member of Doctors Without Borders who had been working in Guinea, returned six days ago and reported Thursday morning coming down with a 103-degree fever and diarrhoea. He was being treated in an isolation ward at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, a designated Ebola centre.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will do a further test to confirm the initial results, has dispatched an Ebola response team to New York, and the city’s disease detectives have been tracing Spencer’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at risk. The city’s health commissioner, Mary Bassett, said Spencer’s fiancée and two friends had been quarantined but showed no symptoms.
President Barack Obama spoke to Cuomo and de Blasio 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.
In the days before Spencer fell ill, he went on a three-mile (five-kilometre) jog, went to the High Line park, rode the subway and, on Wednesday night, got a taxi to a Brooklyn bowling alley. Bassett said he felt fatigued Wednesday but not feverish until Thursday morning.
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.
Bassett said the probability was “close to nil” that Spencer’s subway ride would pose a risk. Still, the bowling alley 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.