Craig Spencer, a 33-year-old doctor in New York City, was recently admitted to the Bellevue Hospital Center after testing positive for Ebola on Thursday. According to CNN, he is the first confirmed case in the city and the fourth diagnosed in the United States. Medical officials are now searching for anyone who may have come into contact with him over the past few days.
Before his diagnosis, Spencer was volunteering in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in order to help fight the epidemic that has killed over 4,800 people to date. Just as he arrived to Africa, he posted a picture of himself on Facebook, wearing a yellow hazmat suit with the caption “Please support organizations that are sending support of personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public healthy and humanitarian disasters in recent history.”
After completing his work on October 12th, he left the country two days later and arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on October 17th. Because Ebola has a 21-day incubation period, he consistently monitored his temperature twice a day upon his return and displayed no symptoms of the virus. Feeling healthy, he reportedly went on a 3-mile job, took the A and L subway lines, and headed to Williamsburg to the Gutter bowling alley on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, however, the physician, who currently works at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, developed a fever, pain and nausea, according to New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Mary Travis Bassett. When his fever spiked at 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 Celsius), he immediately checked himself into Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, which currently serves as a designated Ebola center.
Although Spencer was praised for taking this immediate action, his unfortunate diagnosis further complicates the battle with the virus. It deters doctors and other health-care professionals from helping out exactly when they are needed the most.
In mid-September, for example, the United States, along with several other countries, pledged more than $175 million and 3,000 troops to stem the spread of Ebola. But according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) President, Joanne Liu:
“Generous pledges of aid and unprecedented UN resolutions are very welcome. But they will mean little, unless they are translated into immediate action.”
The MSF is the first humanitarian organization to recognize the epidemic. The organization currently employs 270 international and 3,018 locally hired staff in Liberia, Sierra and Guinea – but with a combined population of 22 million, health-care providers are in very short supply. The MSF has been waiting on extra assistance since March.
Similarly, for Thomas Frieden, CDC’s (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) director, ‘identifying patients with an infection, isolating theme and providing quality care, are the key methods needed to stop Ebola.’ But those methods require the proper equipment, facilities, and most importantly, people.
In order to reassure New Yorkers and medical professionals that there is no reason to be concerned, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at a news conference at Bellevue on Thursday night. He reminded the public that Ebola can only spread via bodily fluids such as blood or vomit, and not through casual contact.
Furthermore, Ebola patients cannot infect others until they begin to show symptoms themselves. Since Spencer immediately checked himself into the hospital, he was only in limited contact with others before he being admitted. As a precaution, the bowling alley has also been closed and his two friends along with his fiancée, who he had been in contact with, are closely being monitored. None are showing symptoms.