A doctor who recently returned from Guinea, one of the hot zones of the current Ebola outbreak where he treated patients with Ebola has been rushed to a New York City hospital with a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Tests returned “preliminary positive results” for Ebola.
The doctor suffering symptoms of the disease was rushed to hospital on Thursday afternoon with “all necessary precautions”, according to the New York City Department of Health. He was identified as Dr. Craig Spencer who works with Doctors Without Borders.
Preliminary test results show that the patient is positive for the Ebola virus. The federal Centers for Disease Control will conduct further tests to confirm the initial result.
“Testing confirmed that a patient here in New York City had tested positive for Ebola,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told a press conference.
“We have been preparing for months for Ebola threat,” he said, adding that “every hospital in the city is prepared” in the event of more patients testing positive, while authorities are prepared to quarantine patient’s contacts as necessary.
“We have had a full coordinating effort that has been working literally night and day,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in his turn, adding that 5,000 healthcare workers were being drilled on Ebola treatment.
Cuomo reassured New Yorkers that the “patient was exposed to a relatively few people” all of whom authorities believe have already been located. According to Cuomo “only five people” had been in contact with the patient within the “relevant” period of time.
One of the four detected contacts under supervision has opted to be quarantined in a hospital, while three others decided to stay under supervision at their homes, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Mary Bassett said, not revealing their identities. Healthcare workers are using full protective gear at Bellevue Hospital, said Bassett, and no workers have opted out of treating Ebola patients.
“The first actual symptoms the patient displayed were today [Thursday],” Bassett added. “The patient is presently hospitalized in isolation.”
The Ebola patient arrived at John F. Kennedy International airport on October 17 and went through all the ramped-up screening procedures, triggering no alert, because he “did not have a fever or other symptoms of illness,” the CDC added in a statement.
When the patient left Guinea earlier this month – and when he arrived in the United States – he was well with no symptoms. Although he did feel fatigue on October 21, he did not report a fever until Thursday.
“We are sending an additional CDC Ebola response team [to NYC], which is in transit now,” CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden added.
New York City Councilor Mark Levine said earlier that authorities were discussing possible evacuation of the Harlem apartment building where he lived. “Our understanding is that very few people were in direct contact with [Spencer],” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Spencer was a medic working in Guinea but has been back in the United State for 10 days. He quarantined himself after developing a high fever, said the Daily News.
Bellevue Hospital said disease detectives are trying to trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk. His apartment in Hamilton Heights is sealed-off.
City officials said that Spencer acknowledged riding the subway and taking a cab to a Brooklyn bowling alley in the past week, but emphasized that was before he started showing symptoms.
“As a further precaution, beginning today, the Health Department’s team of disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk,” NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene commissioner Mary Bassett said in a statement. “The Health Department staff has established protocols to identify, notify and, if necessary, quarantine any contacts of Ebola cases.”
Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan’s midtown has been designated for the identification and treatment of Ebola patients by the City and State.
Hospital administrators said that “the chances of the average New Yorker contacting Ebola are extremely slim. Ebola is spread by directly touching the bodily fluids of an infected person.”
New York’s John F. Kennedy airport was the first American airport to start conducting screenings of passengers coming from the three countries stricken by the Ebola virus – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Passengers are asked questions about potential exposure to Ebola, and have their temperature taken.