1st NYC Ebola Case; 3 More Quarantined 10/24 10:38
Officials tried to tamp down New Yorkers' fears Friday after a doctor was
diagnosed with Ebola in a city where millions of people squeeze into crowded
subways, buses and elevators every day.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Officials tried to tamp down New Yorkers' fears Friday
after a doctor was diagnosed with Ebola in a city where millions of people
squeeze into crowded subways, buses and elevators every day.
"We want to state at the outset that New Yorkers have no reason to be
alarmed" by the doctor's diagnosis Thursday, said Mayor Bill de Blasio, even as
officials described Dr. Craig Spencer riding the subway, taking a cab and
bowling since returning to New York from Guinea a week ago. "New Yorkers who
have not been exposed are not at all at risk."
Heath officials have repeatedly given assurances that the disease is spread
only by direct contact with bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, vomit and
feces, and that the virus survives on dry surfaces for only a matter of hours.
But some in the nation's most populous city, with more than 8 million
people, were not taking any chances.
Friday morning, a group of teenage girls in Catholic school uniforms riding
the L subway train passed around a bottle of hand sanitizer. They said they
were taking extra precautions because of the Ebola case. It was one of the
subway lines the doctor rode after returning home.
The governor and health officials said Spencer, a member of Doctors Without
Borders, sought treatment with diarrhea and a 100.3-degree fever --- not 103 as
officials initially reported Thursday night. The health department blamed a
transcription error for the incorrect information. He was being treated in an
isolation ward at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital, a designated Ebola center.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the doctor "obviously felt he wasn't
symptomatic" when he went out "in a limited way."
The governor, in an appearance on CNN's New Day, said there was no reason to
fear riding the subway, and he would do so Friday.
But one commuter called riding the subway "a scary thing."
There are "a lot of germs in New York," said Chris Thompson who was riding
the L train.
Another subway rider, 41-year-old construction worker T.J. DeMaso expressed
"If the outbreaks get any more common, I'll be moving out of the city," he
said. "You could catch it and not even know it. You could bring it home to your
kids. That's not a chance I want to take."
Subway rider Alicia Clavell said she hoped it's "an isolated incident."
Veronica Lopez, who lives in the building next to the doctor, said "people
were joking about it" but when the doctor's diagnosis was announced they "went
crazy." She said she heard the city was notifying residents via fliers "and my
roommate was freaking out because we didn't get a flier."
But Tanya Thomas, 47, who lives in Spencer's building, was matter-a-fact
about the whole thing.
"He's the one with Ebola," she said. "If I get it, I get it."
Health officials say the chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola
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 rides
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.
Evageline Love also was unconcerned. "I saw the mayor and the governor. What
they're saying, I believe, is true. There's no need for hysteria," she said as
he rode the L train to work.
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. President Barack Obama spoke to Cuomo and 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.
Health officials have been tracing Spencer's contacts to identify anyone who
may be at risk. The city's health commissioner, Mary Bassett, said Spencer's
fiancee and two friends had been quarantined but showed no symptoms.
The epidemic in West Africa has killed about 4,800 people. 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.
According to a rough timeline provided by city officials, in the days before
Spencer fell ill, he went on a 3-mile jog, went to the High Line park, rode the
subway and, on Wednesday night, got a taxi to a Brooklyn bowling alley. He felt
tired starting Tuesday, and felt worse on Thursday when he and his fiancee made
a joint call to authorities to detail his symptoms and his travels. EMTs in
full Ebola gear arrived and took him to Bellevue in an ambulance surrounded by
police squad cars.
Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization, said
per the guidelines it provides its staff members on their return from Ebola
assignments, "the individual engaged in regular health monitoring and reported
this development immediately." Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone
must report in with health officials daily and take their temperature twice a
day, as Spencer did. He also limited his direct contact with people, health
Spencer, 33, works at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical
Center. He had not seen any patients or been to the hospital since his return,
the hospital said in a statement, calling him a "dedicated humanitarian" who
"went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved
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.
In West Africa this year, more than 440 health workers have contracted Ebola
and about half have died. But the Ebola virus is not very hardy. The CDC says
bleach and other hospital disinfectants kill it.
Spencer is from Michigan and attended Wayne State University School of
Medicine and Columbia's University Mailman School of Public Health.
According to his Facebook page, he left for West Africa via Brussels last
month. A photo shows him in full protective gear. He returned to Brussels Oct.
"Off to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders," he wrote. "Please support
organizations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help
combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent