5:47 am - Wednesday January 16, 2019

Ebola in New York: Doctor tests positive for deadly disease after returning from west Africa

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Authorities in New York confirmed on Thursday night that a doctor who had recently returned to his home in Harlem after working for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea helping treat patients with Ebola had tested positive for the disease and had been put in isolation at a Manhattan hospital.

The Mayor of New York, Bill De Blasio, confirmed the diagnosis in a press conference but tried to reassure the 8 million residents of the city that the risk of it spreading any further remained minimal. Questions were nonetheless being asked this morning after it emerged that the patient had traveled in taxis and on the underground system since his return to the US on 17th October and had gone bowling in Brooklyn.

“There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed,” de Blasio said at a late evening news conference at Bellevue Hospital, where the patient, identified as Dr Craig Spencer, was taken on Thursday and where he is being treated in isolation. “Being on the same subway car or living near someone with Ebola does not in itself put someone at risk.” Also at the press conference was the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.

While the diagnosis had yet to be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, his preliminary positive test for Ebola was certain to spread new anxiety through the United States where federal officials have struggled to impose new measures to prevent any wider outbreak in the wake of two nurses contracting the disease in Dallas after helping treat a Liberian man who was the first to die from the disease on US soil.

It appeared that Dr Spencer had been taking his own steps to self-monitor his health since returning one week ago, regularly taking his temperature. He first detected that he had a temperature early Thursday and he and his fiancé were quick to alert authorities. He was rushed by an ambulance surrounded by police outriders to Bellevue Hospital. His fiancé was believed to be in the hospital also under quarantine observation.

New York Health Commissioner, Mary Travis Bassett, also said that two other friends had been put into strict quarantine out of extra caution. She meanwhile stressed that Dr Spencer, 33, had not shown any symptoms while traveling around the city, which means he was not at that time contagious. Officials, however, were last night embarked on an urgent effort to identify any other people who may have had contact with the patient.

“He did not have a fever for the whole time since he left Guinea until this morning,” she said, adding that he had been monitoring his temperature twice a day since coming back to the US. He had flown into JFK where he had been subjected to screening when he had shown no sign of the illness. He had flown from Guinea via Brussels.

While his apartment in Harlem had been sealed off, New York City health workers had assembled an information station across the street from his building late Thursday to offer assistance to members of the public who might be concerned over the situation and fearful they had been exposed to the virus. Additional steeps included the temporary shuttering of the Brooklyn bowling alley. He had been there only on Wednesday night.

Dr Spencer was described as a specialist in international emergency medicine at Columbia University-New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City since 2011. Columbia in a statement said he has not been to work nor seen any patients since his return.

“He is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first,” the 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.”

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