Humanitarian doctor tests positive for Ebola in NYC
“That is a good sign,” Dr. Mary T. Bassett, NYC Health Commissioner, said.
Spencer returned from Africa via Europe on October 17 after treating Ebola patients in Guinea with the group Doctors Without Borders.
The physician reported having a fever on Thursday to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization, which then alerted the city’s Health Department. That fever, initially reported as having been as high as 103 degrees was actually 100.3 degrees, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Since returning from Africa, Spencer rode the A, L, and No. 1 subway lines, went running, used an Uber livery cab, and went to a bowling alley in Williamsburg called the Gutter Wednesday night, said Dr. Mary Bassett, the city’s health commissioner. He also visited the High Line park in Manhattan at some point, she said. He began exhibiting a fever and diarrhea on Thursday morning.
His most recent subway ride came just hours before his Ebola test.
“He was exposed to four people. His fiance, a cab driver and two friends he went bowling with,” Cuomo said.
“Today, EMS HAZ TAC Units transported a patient to Bellevue Hospital who presented a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms,” Basset said in a statement earlier Thursday before the diagnosis. “As a further precaution, beginning today, the Health Department’s team of disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk. The Health Department staff has established protocols to identify, notify, and, if necessary, quarantine any contacts of Ebola cases.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the man had limited contact with others since coming back from Africa. One of those was his fiance, who was also brought to Bellevue. The mayor also cautioned New Yorkers that their chances of contracting Ebola are very slim, even if you were on the subway with Spencer.
“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.”
Despite the words of encouragement from officials, social media exploded after news of the first confirmed Ebola case in NYC and whether protocols need to be changed for all people returning from Ebola-stricken regions.
“It’s one of the questions the federal government is thinking through,” Cuomo said.
Spencer is the fourth Ebola patient treated in the United States.
The CDC sent an Ebola response team to New York on Thursday.
“In addition, CDC already had a team of Ebola experts in New York City who can offer immediate additional support,” the CDC said in a statement. “The CDC experts were in New York City this week assessing hospital readiness to receive Ebola patients, including Bellevue hospital.”
In a statement, Uber confirmed that Spencer used an Uber car Wednesday evening.
“We immediately contacted the CDC and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which stated that neither our driver partner nor any of his subsequent passengers are at risk. We have communicated this to the driver, and the NYC DOHMH medical team met with the driver in person, assuring him that he is not at risk. Our thoughts are with the patient and his loved ones.”
Dr. Spencer is on staff at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, which issued a statement Thursday night.
The physician is a dedicated humanitarian on the staff of NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center who went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population,” NewYork-Presbyterian said in the statement. “He is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first. 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.”
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito issued a statement.
“I urge New Yorkers to remain calm and to follow the protocols issued by the Department of Health,” Mark-Viverito said. “My thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Spencer and his family and I join all New Yorkers in wishing him a full and speedy recovery.”
Bellevue is one of eight hospitals that Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated as the front line of the state’s Ebola Preparedness Plan.
The Ebola virus has killed thousands of people in West Africa in recent months.
With the Associated Press