iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Officials are retracing the steps of a doctor who tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, with the doctor in isolation at a New York City hospital and three others under quarantine, city and state officials said.
Dr. Craig Allen Spencer, 33, was placed in isolation at Bellevue Hospital on Thursday after reporting a 100.3 fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. He had been treating Ebola patients in Guinea — one of the West African countries battling an outbreak of the deadly virus — for Doctors Without Borders, officials said. Spencer left Guinea on Oct. 14 and traveled through Brussels, Belgium, and arrived at JFK Airport on Oct. 17.
Spencer had contact with four people — his fiancée, two friends and an Uber driver, according to New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. His fiancée, identified by a family friend as Morgan Dixon, is under quarantine at Bellevue Hospital while his two friends are quarantined at home, Bassett said. None of the people under quarantine are showing Ebola symptoms. The Uber driver isn’t considered to be at risk for contracting the virus.
Health officials say Spencer took the A, L and 1 subway trains on Wednesday. He also went for a jog and visited The Gutter, a bowling alley in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Gutter was closed Thursday “out of an abundance of caution,” Bassett said.
The New York City Health Department will check the bowling alley on Friday, Bassett said.
Spencer’s apartment was sealed off after it was cleared. Since he tested positive, a team will decontaminate his apartment in the Harlem section of New York, officials said.
Neighbors were saddened to learn about Spencer’s diagnosis.
“I really hope the odds are in his favor in regards to his recovery,” neighbor John Roston said.
The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, are slim — “close to nil” that the subway rides would pose a risk, Bassett said.
Still, the news rankled some New Yorkers.
“Oh my gosh!” said Charles Kerr, 60, as his friends gathered on a Harlem sidewalk murmured. “This changes the situation. The guy must be coughing, sitting against people. Now you’ve got to think.”
Kerr said he wasn’t afraid, but he wants a stricter approach to anyone coming from the Ebola-affected countries.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, speaking at a Thursday press conference, expressed their confidence in the staff at Bellevue Hospital to treat Spencer.
“There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed,” de Blasio said. “We’ve been preparing for months for the threat posed by Ebola. We have clear and strong protocols, which are being scrumptiously followed and were followed in this instance.”
Earlier this week, a team with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that Bellevue’s hospital staff had proper protocols and was prepared to treat Ebola patients, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said.
Cuomo said he had spoken with Ron Klain, who was appointed by President Obama as his “Ebola czar.” A CDC team was also en route to New York, said Frieden.
New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center described Spencer as a “dedicated humanitarian…who went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population.”
Spencer is the fourth patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian national, tested positive for the virus at the end of September in Dallas, where he infected two nurses who cared for him: Nina Pham and Amber Vinson.
Duncan died on Oct. 8, shortly before the nurses tested positive for the virus.
Vinson has been declared virus-free, her family announced Wednesday. Pham’s condition has been upgraded from “fair” to “good.”
Health officials decided to test the New York City patient for Ebola because of the patient’s work, symptoms and travel history, according to a statement from Bellevue Hospital. Bellevue is the designated hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of Ebola patients in New York City.
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