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New York City Physician Tests Positive for Ebola

New York City EbolaBy Brad Broker

A physician who recently returned to New York City from a humanitarian trip in Guinea has tested positive for Ebola.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Craig Spencer is in isolation at Bellevue Hospital as health officials cover his tracks of the past few days to identify anyone else who may have come in contact with Spencer.

It is already known that Dr. Spencer took a subway Wednesday night from Manhattan to Brooklyn, he went bowling, and took a taxi back to the city.

Dr. Craig Spencer
Dr. Craig Spencer

The NYC Department of Health said in a statement that its “team of disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk. The Health Department staff has established protocols to identify, notify, and, if necessary, quarantine any contacts of Ebola cases.”

“Being on the same subway car or living near someone with Ebola is not enough to put someone at risk,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio at a news conference held Thursday night at Bellevue. “There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed.”

The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim, according to the Department of Health. Ebola is spread by directly touching the bodily fluids of an infected person. The disease is not airborne.

While the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention say that “Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food,” they caution that “during outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves and eye protection.

The second Ebola case in Texas was due to improper use of protective equipment by a nurse caring for Thomas Duncan, the first U.S. Ebola patient, who died October 8.

Dr. Spencer — a fellow of international emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and an instructor in clinical medicine at Columbia University — had been in West Africa treating Ebola patients as part of an assignment with Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian organization that provides medical aid to underprivileged and emergency situations.

(Photo by Anthony Quintano via Flickr)

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