NEW YORK (PIX11) — There is no reason for New Yorkers to change their daily routine “in any way” now that the city is handling its first case of Ebola, Mayor de Blasio said in a Friday afternoon news conference.
“We are fully prepared to handle Ebola,” de Blasio said, adding that all protocols were followed “to the T.”
The mayor, the city health commissioner and doctors at Bellevue Hospital, where Dr. Craig Spencer is being treated and is in stable condition, repeatedly called for calm and stressed that the chances of the average New Yorker contracting the often-deadly virus are “close to nil.”
The only way for someone to contract Ebola is to have direct contact with the bodily fluids – among them saliva, blood, urine and feces – of someone who has Ebola and is showing symptoms, de Blasio repeatedly said.
Concerns about possible spread of the virus emerged when it was learned that Spencer took the subway, went to The Gutter bowling alley, the High Line, the Meatball Shop and drove in an Uber car the night before he was diagnosed.
But health officials stressed there is little risk of contagion because Spencer was not showing symptoms when he was out in the city.
The 33-year-old doctor began feeling sluggish on Tuesday but did not show early symptoms of the virus until he came down with a 100.3-degree fever Thursday morning. He was diagnosed with Ebola that same day.
Because Spencer returned Oct. 17 from Guinea where he was treating Ebola patients, he had been monitoring his temperature. A low-grade fever is the earliest indicator of possible Ebola.
A physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Spencer did not return to work or treat any patients after he returned from West Africa.
His live-in fiancée and two friends have been quarantined and are not exhibiting symptoms of the virus, health officials said.
In the wake of the diagnosis, de Blasio urged New Yorkers to get a flu shot, saying it will help the city’s medical teams “not have to deal with something that may falsely indicate Ebola” because symptoms of the flu are similar to those of Ebola.
If anyone is concerned that they may meet the criteria for having contracted Ebola – specifically, having visited a West African nation in the past 21 days where an Ebola outbreak is underway and exhibiting a fever or gastrointestinal symptoms – they should immediately call 911 or go to an emergency room, de Blasio said.
He urged anyone who meets those criteria not to wait to see if they feel better and not to go to a private doctor’s office.
The second person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., nurse Nina Pham, was declared free of Ebola Friday. Her colleague at Dallas Presbyterian Hospital Amber Vinson was deemed Ebola-free Thursday.
There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola. Doctors caring for Ebola patients use “supportive care,” meaning they treat the symptoms as they come to allow the patients’ own immune system to fight off the virus.
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.