A doctor in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan has tested positive for the Ebola virus, officials announced just moments ago.
The 33-year-old physician, employed at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, developed a fever, nausea, pain and fatigue Wednesday night, city officials said. On Thursday morning, he was taken to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan for testing. The doctor, who returned from West Africa about 10 days ago, has been identified as Craig Spencer.
A press conference is expected at any moment. Until then, here are the details we know at this point:
High risk travel history
Spencer recently returned from Guinea, one of the West African countries currently battling an Ebola outbreak. He was working with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, which has been at the forefront of the fight against Ebola in West Africa. Officials said today that Spencer traveled through Brussels, Belgium, and arrived at JFK Airport on Oct. 17.
Doctors Without Borders released a statement confirming that the physician had just arrived in the US from West Africa and was “engaged in regular health monitoring.” Columbia Presbyterian Hospital said the doctor was “a dedicated humanitarian” who went to “an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population.” They described Spencer as “a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first.”
The doctor did not isolate himself
It appears that Spencer did not quarantine himself following his return, city officials said. The physician took a car service – Uber – to a bowling alley in Brooklyn on Wednesday night, according to officials. Authorities have quarantined his girlfriend, with whom he had contact with as recently as this morning.
However, according to his employer (Columbia Presbyterian), “he has not been to work at our hospital and has not seen any patients at our hospital since his return from overseas.”
Mild symptoms developed several days ago
Spencer began feeling “generally unwell” a couple of days ago, officials reported earlier today, but his symptoms were reportedly not severe enough to raise alarm, so he did not report them.
The doctor reported his symptoms on Thursday morning
Spencer’s symptoms worsened on Thursday morning, when he took his temperature and registered a fever of 103 degrees. At that point, Spencer reported his symptoms to Doctors Without Borders. The case came to light after the New York Fire Department received a call shortly before noon Thursday about a sick person in Manhattan. The patient was then taken to Bellevue.
The physician was placed in isolation within two hours
The New York City Health Department said a special ambulance unit transported a patient suffering from a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms to Bellevue Hospital. Spencer was placed in isolation at Bellevue Hospital within two hours of his initial phone call.
Bellevue Hospital is well-equipped for Ebola
Bellevue Hospital is one of the eight hospitals statewide that Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated earlier this month as part of an Ebola preparedness plan. The hospital is designated for the “isolation, identification and treatment of potential Ebola patients” in the city, the health department said in a statement. Hospital employees have undergone extensive training to ensure that the facility would be prepared should they receive an Ebola patient. They have also gone through unannounced drills in which actors posing as Ebola patients were sent to the hospital to test their response.
‘Disease detectives’ already working on contact tracing
Officials treated the case as a probable Ebola diagnosis even before it was confirmed, giving them a head start on infection control activities. “[B]eginning today (Thursday), 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,” the health department said statement.
CDC is mobilizing a team of specialists
Federal officials said today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be sending a team of specialists to New York City on Thursday evening. The team – made up of experts in epidemiology, infection control, and communications – will assist local officials with contact tracing and other infection control and monitoring activities.
Risk to public remains low
Although Spencer did not isolate himself, the risk to the general public still remains low. Ebola is spread by direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person — not through casual contact. “The chances of the average New Yorker contracting Ebola are extremely slim,” the health department said.