NYC doctor tests positive for Ebola after treating patients in West Africa

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NEW YORK (PIX11) — A New York doctor has become the first person in the city to test positive for Ebola, developing the illness after treating patients of the deadly disease in West Africa, health officials said Thursday.

Craig Spencer, a doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, had traveled to Guinea with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders in September.

Spencer, who lives on West 147th Street  in Hamilton Heights, became ill Thursday morning with a fever and gastrointestinal problems, and is now confined to an isolation unit at Bellevue Hospital, one of eight hospitals in the state designated to take on possible Ebola cases, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The 33-year-old left Guinea on Oct. 12,  made a stopover in Brussels Oct. 16 and returned to New York City the next day.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed that all protocols for handling suspected Ebola patients were followed in this case and urged calm.

"We want to state at the outset there is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed," de Blasio said Thursday night.

Ebola is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person who is showing symptoms, and the virus is not airborne. Health officials reminded the public that the nature of the virus makes the chances "close to nil" that Spencer transmitted the illness to anyone else.

"The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim," city health commissioner Mary T. Bassett said.

Spencer was symptomatic for a brief period of time before he was diagnosed and isolated, the mayor said, and did not have direct contact with many people except his fiancee and a few friends.

Spencer's fiancee has been quarantined as a precaution but has not exhibited symptoms, health officials said. At least two of his friends have been contacted by health officials.

So-called "disease detectives" have been dispatched to piece together a timeline of Spencer's movement since he returned to the city, de Blasio said.

Officials have interviewed Spencer and took his MetroCard as part of their effort to track down people he may have come into contact with.

The 33-year-old doctor visited The Gutter bowling alley on North 14th Street in Williamsburg the night before he became ill, health officials said.

Spencer traveled to Guinea in September with Doctors Without Boarders. (Photo: Craig Spencer/Facebook)

Spencer traveled to Guinea in September with Doctors Without Boarders. (Photo: Craig Spencer/Facebook)

Bassett said that Spencer went for a 3-mile jog and took the A, L and No. 1 trains.

"At the time that the doctor was on the subway he did not have fever ... He was not symptomatic," Bassett said.

He returned home from the bowling alley in a car hailed through the ride-sharping app Uber, the company said, adding that health officials have assured them that the driver and subsequent passengers are not at risk.

The Gutter bowling alley was closed Thursday evening as a precaution, the business said on its Facebook page.

It is expected to reopen "sometime" Friday.

"We are working with the NYC Health Department to have the bar cleaned and sanitized under their supervision and expect to be open sometime today after that is completed," the bowling alley said in an update on its Facebook page.

"Doctors advising the Health Department have told us that our staff and customers were at no risk.”

Spencer began feeling sluggish as early as Tuesday. He came down with a 100.3-degree fever, pain and nausea Thursday morning and reached out for help, health officials said.

Described as a "committed and responsible" physician, Spencer had been checking his temperature twice daily as a precaution, according to Doctors Without Borders. He had not seen any patients at NewYork-Presbyterian since he returned from West Africa, the hospital said.

Emergency crews arrived at his Washington Heights apartment in Hamzat gear and, following careful guidelines, transported him to the hospital. His home is now sealed off.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo echoed de Blasio's reassurances that the city and state are well-prepared to handle the case.

"We are as ready as one could be," Cuomo said.

He noted that the situation in New York differs from Dallas, where a now-deceased man was diagnosed with Ebola after coming to the U.S. from Liberia and two health care workers who treated him contracted the virus.

The first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., nurse Nina Pham, was declared free of Ebola Friday. Her colleague at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas Amber Vinson was deemed Ebola-free Thursday.

They both contracted the virus after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died Oct. 8.

"We had the advantage of learning from the Dallas experience," Cuomo said.

President Barack Obama offered federal support to New York City in light of Spencer's diagnosis. A team from the CDC was already in the city earlier this week and another team arrived late Thursday.

Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All travelers coming from those countries to the U.S. now will be actively monitored for 21 days upon their return for possible symptoms of Ebola, which include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding.

CNN contributed to this report.




  • Asok Smith

    Obama is determined to import a more effective Ebola index patient than Duncan.

    BTW, think of the freak-out coming this winter when flu and Norovirus hit. Think they’ll have enough ambulances with police escorts for the millions that get sick with those this winter?

  • Apple (@pivobysala)

    And so it begins… People who go over to Africa to treat Ebola patients probably shouldn’t be welcomed back with open arms until they are quarantined first. This sounds like common sense to me, but maybe not for our government.

    Just a few days ago, President Ebola (ahem, Obama) was saying that Ebola “would not spread to the US”.

    Reminds me of.. “If you like your doctor, you can keep him” and other lies.

    Well guess what? My health care is up to $500/month, I have a new 2nd-rate doctor, and dozens of highly trained medical professionals have been killed by Ebola.

    Everything the government touches becomes unaffordable. My health insurance is $450/month, my taxes are closing in on 50% (in NYC), and even my subway pass is now over $100/month (in NYC). Stuff that is still private enterprise is super cheap. Car insurance ($25/month from Insurance Panda), cell phone ($22/month from T Mobile), and gym ($15/month from Planet Fitness).

    It would take a fool to believe Obama’s nonsense now.

  • DIlva

    uptil I looked at the receipt which had said $7187 , I didn’t believe …that…my friend was like they say actualie earning money in their spare time at their laptop. . there moms best frend had bean doing this for only about twenty three months and as of now cleared the loans on their mini mansion and bourt a gorgeous Porsche 911 . view ..▒░░fox92.ς●m░░▒

  • Tawnia

    I personally think if they are going to take the time to reannounce the Ebola issue in Spanish, as to avoid language discrimination, they need to announce breaking news in ALL languages found within the USA, including ALL Native American languages.

  • mike

    The worst possible fear has arrived with the first Ebola patient in NYC. My hope is that all necessary steps are taken to isolate this patient and hopefully there no more confirmed patients in NYC. But my concern unfortunately is that this may not be the only confirmed case in NYC. Wow.

  • mike

    The scary part is that this guy took the #1 and a train and also went bowling in Brooklyn. That to me is very disturbing. Also, he self quarantined himself so i don’t know why he would put people in risk like this.

  • anonymous

    As a health professional he knew what he was exposed to. CNN said he felt sluggish for a couple days before her had a fever. Yet he went for a run, which makes you sweat and got on a public transit. When you bowl your hands sweat that’s why the air is at the end of the ball area, after bowling he went home and felt sick that night. Why are people not in isolation for however many days needed to protect others from getting it? Why are people so selfish? If you’ve been exposed there is a risk you may get it. Why put others at risk or cause anyone to even fear just so you can have a good time or plan a wedding? Anyone exposed should be on a paid leave. And we need to stop flight back from Africa if you want to help, go help, but you can’t come back!

  • Jess D

    Actually the CDC says being within 3 feet of an infected patient is low risk action. Not a high risk like a needle stick with a needle used on a patient, but still a clear risk. Not airborne does not mean you have to touch the person to catch it. A sneeze can travel up to 5 feet in front of someone and if you inhale those microscopic droplets into your mucus membranes you are at a high risk of catching it. So the CDC needs to stop being afraid of people being afraid and do their job, provide correct and fully explained information so we can protect ourselves.

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