NEW YORK (AP) — A doctor who became New York City’s first Ebola patient was praised for getting treatment
immediately upon showing symptoms, and health officials stressed that the nation’s most populous city
need not fear his wide-ranging travel in the days before his illness began.
Thursday, even as they described him riding the subway, taking a cab and bowling since returning to New
York from Guinea a week ago. De Blasio said all city officials followed "clear and strong"
protocols in their handling and treatment of him.
"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."
The doctor, Craig Spencer, a member of Doctors Without Borders, reported Thursday morning coming down
with a 103-degree fever and diarrhea. He was being treated in an isolation ward at Manhattan’s Bellevue
Hospital, a designated Ebola center.
Cuomo said Friday that the doctor "obviously felt he wasn’t symptomatic" when he went out
"in a limited way."
"When you’re a doctor you know you’re not contagious until you’re symptomatic," Cuomo said on
NBC’s Today show. "As soon as he had a fever he presented himself to a hospital."
The governor, in an appearance on CNN’s New Day, said there was no reason to fear riding the subway, and
he would do so Friday.
One commuter said he first learned of New York’s first Ebola case on the subway on his way to work Friday
It’s "a scary thing" because there are "a lot of germs in New York," said Chris
Thompson who was riding the L train, one of the lines Spencer rode after returning home from West
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will do a further test to confirm the initial
results, has dispatched an Ebola response team to New York. President Barack Obama spoke to Cuomo and de
Blasio on Thursday night and offered the federal government’s support. He asked them to stay in close
touch with Ron Klain, his "Ebola czar," and public health officials in Washington.
Health officials have been tracing Spencer’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at risk. The city’s
health commissioner, Mary Bassett, said Spencer’s fiancee and two friends had been quarantined but
showed no symptoms.
Health officials say 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. Someone can’t be infected just by
being near someone who is sick with Ebola. Someone isn’t contagious unless he is sick.
Bassett said the probability was "close to nil" that Spencer’s subway rides would pose a risk.
Still, the bowling alley was closed as a precaution, and Spencer’s Harlem apartment was cordoned off.
The Department of Health was on site across the street from the apartment building Thursday night,
giving out information to area residents.
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
"Stay in their apartment," he said. "Especially now, when it’s so rampant. Especially if
they know they’ve been in contact."
The epidemic in West Africa has killed about 4,800 people. In the United States, the first person
diagnosed with the disease was a Liberian man, who fell ill days after arriving in Dallas and later
died, becoming the only fatality. None of his relatives who had contact with him got sick. Two nurses
who treated him were infected and are hospitalized. The family of one nurse said doctors no longer could
detect Ebola in her as of Tuesday evening.
According to a rough timeline provided by city officials, in the days before Spencer fell ill, he went on
a 3-mile jog, went to the High Line park, rode the subway and, on Wednesday night, got a taxi to a
Brooklyn bowling alley. He felt tired starting Tuesday, and felt worse on Thursday when he and his
fiancee made a joint call to authorities to detail his symptoms and his travels. EMTs in full Ebola gear
arrived and took him to Bellevue in an ambulance surrounded by police squad cars.
Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization, said per the guidelines it provides
its staff members on their return from Ebola assignments, "the individual engaged in regular health
monitoring and reported this development immediately." Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone must report in with health officials daily and take their temperature twice a day, as Spencer did.
He also limited his direct contact with people, health officials said.
Spencer, 33, works at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. He had not seen any
patients or been to the hospital since his return, the hospital said in a statement, calling him a
"dedicated humanitarian" who "went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately
Four American aid workers, including three doctors, were infected with Ebola while working in Africa and
were transferred to the U.S. for treatment in recent months. All recovered. Health care workers are
vulnerable because of close contact with patients when they are their sickest and most contagious.
In West Africa this year, more than 440 health workers have contracted Ebola and about half have died.
But the Ebola virus is not very hardy. The CDC says bleach and other hospital disinfectants kill it.
Dried virus on surfaces survives only for several hours.
Spencer is from Michigan and attended Wayne State University School of Medicine and Columbia’s University
Mailman School of Public Health.
According to his Facebook page, he left for West Africa via Brussels last month. A photo shows him in
full protective gear. He returned to Brussels Oct. 16.
"Off to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders," he wrote. "Please support organizations that
are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and
humanitarian disasters in recent history."
Associated Press writers Frank Eltman, Cara Anna, Cameron Young, Jake Pearson, Deepti Hajela and Tom Hays
and researcher Susan James contributed to this report.
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