Dr. Craig Spencer was transported from his apartment on West 147th Street in Harlem to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday. Credit Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
October 2014 – NEW YORK – A doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the Ebola virus Thursday, becoming the city’s first diagnosed case. The doctor, Craig Spencer, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday and placed in isolation while health care workers spread out across the city to trace anyone he might have come into contact with in recent days. A further test will be conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control to confirm the initial test. While officials have said they expected isolated cases of the disease to arrive in New York eventually, and had been preparing for this moment for months, the first case highlighted the challenges surrounding containment of the virus, especially in a crowded metropolis. Even as the authorities worked to confirm that Mr. Spencer was infected with Ebola, it emerged that he traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the subway on Wednesday night, when he went to a bowling alley and then took a taxi home.
Thomas W. Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston helped develop a vaccine that was effective in preventing Ebola in monkeys. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they begin to display symptoms, and it cannot be spread through the air. As the person becomes sicker, the viral load in the body builds, and they become more and more contagious.
Dr. Spencer’s travel history and the timing of the onset of his symptoms led health officials to dispatch “disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk,” according to a statement released by the department. It was unclear if the city was trying to find people who might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer on the subway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority directed all questions to the health department, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the issue. At Dr. Spencer’s apartment in Harlem, his home was sealed off and workers distributed informational fliers about the disease. It was not clear if anyone was being quarantined. Health authorities declined to say how many people in total might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer while he was symptomatic. Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a press conference Thursday evening before the diagnosis, said Dr. Spencer has given health workers a detailed accounting of his activities over the last few days. “Our understanding is that very few people were in direct contact with him,” Mr. de Blasio said. Dr. Spencer had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, treating Ebola patients, before returning to New York City on Oct. 14, according to a city official. He told the authorities that he did not believe the protective gear he wore while working with Ebola patients had been breached but had been monitoring his own health. –NY Times