Tags: ebola | new york | Spencer | subway | infectious disease

NYC Races to Trace Ebola Patient's Steps

Friday, 24 October 2014 08:05 AM

New York City health officials are racing to trace people who may have had contact with Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer, even as they try to prevent panic by assuring residents there’s little danger of catching the deadly disease.

But they face a series of mounting challenges in the densely populated city of more than 8 million people: The night before Spencer took seriously ill Thursday he went to a bowling alley in Brooklyn, taking a long subway ride there from his Upper Manhattan home and returning by taxi, according to The New York Times.

Spencer’s fiancée and two friends who he had been in contact with two days before he was hospitalized are now in quarantine, while the driver of the Uber car service he used to return from the bowling alley, The Gutter, is not yet considered at risk.

But the people who were at the bowling alley in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on Wednesday night may be alarmed, especially in light of the fact that Spencer may have used a bowling ball that, in turn, could have been used by another bowler. It is not yet known whether he used his own ball, or even bowled.

Spencer has said he started feeling sluggish on Tuesday, the Times reported. When he was hospitalized Thursday and put in isolation, he had a temperature of 100.3 degrees.

City officials are already attempting to assuage fears that the 33-year-old doctor may have contaminated a subway car during his ride, which involved taking the A and L trains to get to Brooklyn from his home on West 147 Street, according to The Wall Street Journal.

New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett pointed out that people with Ebola are only contagious when they show symptoms of the virus such as a fever, and that Spencer didn’t have a fever when he was on the subway.

"We consider that it is extremely unlikely — the probability being close to nil — that there would be any problem related to [people] taking the subway system," she told the Journal.

And Howard Zucker, acting health commissioner for New York state, also attempted to alleviate concerns over riding the city’s subway system, saying, "I would get on the subway tomorrow and ride the subway."

While noting that officials have Spencer’s MetroCard that he used to pay for subway rides, Bassett also revealed that the doctor had gone to the High Line, Manhattan’s elevated park trail, which thousands of tourists and residents visit every week.

Out of caution, The Gutter has shut down temporarily, and the city’s Health Department was sending a crew to examine the facility, according to the Journal.

Spencer, who had recently returned from the West African country of Guinea where he had treated Ebola patients, was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan by ambulance. It was later confirmed that he was the city’s first confirmed case of Ebola.

Israel Miranda, president of the union of uniformed emergency medical technicians and paramedics, told the Times that he believed that Spencer’s transportation was handled in a proper manner to prevent contamination.

Two paramedics dressed in protective suits put Spencer in the ambulance while two others not wearing suits drove the vehicle. The protective suits were later cut from behind by a special unit, Miranda said.

"The suit was peeled off them like an onion," Miranda told the newspaper. "So everything went by the book."

The paramedics will have their temperatures taken twice a day for three weeks to make certain that they have not caught the virus, the Times reported. However, they will be allowed to carry on working because "there was no breach," Miranda said.

Bassett noted that Ebola can only spread through direct contact with body fluids, which include saliva, sweat, urine, feces, and vomit.

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New York City health officials are racing to trace people who may have had contact with Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer, even as they try to prevent panic by assuring residents — who may have shared a subway car with Spencer — there's little danger of catching the disease.
ebola, new york, Spencer, subway, infectious disease
Friday, 24 October 2014 08:05 AM
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