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Recently Returned From Africa, Doctor Tests Positive For Ebola At NYC Hospital


A patient at a New York City hospital has tested positive for Ebola, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference on Thursday.  According to a statement from Doctors Without Borders, a doctor returned to the United States Oct. 12 after working with Ebola patients in Guinea.

The man — who has been identified as Craig Spencer, 33 — notified the nonprofit's office that he had a fever this morning and he was transported to Bellevue Hospital, where he also presented with gastrointestinal issues. Spencer had not been symptomatic before Thursday morning, which reduced the risk he could have passed the infection on to others.

At a Thursday night press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio emphasized the unlikelihood of contracting Ebola through casual contact, saying that riding on the same subway with or living nearby an Ebola patient does not pose a significant risk.

New York City's Health Commissioner Mary T. Bassett said Spencer "was transported by a specially trained HAZ TAC unit wearing Personal Protective Equipment." Instead of going to the emergency room, the man was taken directly to an isolation unit.

The patient's apartment, his fiance and two friends with whom Spencer had had close contact have been quarantined, according to Mary Travis Bassett, commissioner of the New York Health Department.

A bowling alley in the Williamsburg neighborhood that the patient recently had been at closed down out of an abundance of caution, and would be examined by health officials on Friday.

In a statement, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center said Spencer was one of their doctors who "went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population."

NPR member station WNYC reports that Health Department specialists "are tracing all people who may have had contact with the patient and could be at risk. If necessary, those people could be placed under quarantine."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at the Thursday night press conference that he had spoken with the Ron Klain, the country's newly appointed Ebola czar, and that Centers for Disease Control teams were on the way to New York.

Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said that a team from the agency coincidentally had just completed an evaluation of Bellevue Hospital's preparedness for treating Ebola and found that the staff was fully trained in proper protocols.

Update on Oct. 24 at 12:45 a.m. ET. Doctors Without Borders Protocol:

Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF, notes that its staff members go through a debriefing process once they return the U.S. from a field assignment related to Ebola. In that debrief, MSF said in a press release, aid workers are informed of the following guidelines:

1. Check temperature two times per day

2. Finish regular course of malaria prophylaxis (malaria symptoms can mimic Ebola symptoms)

3. Be aware of relevant symptoms, such as fever

4. Stay within four hours of a hospital with isolation facilities

5. Immediately contact the MSF-USA office if any relevant symptoms develop

"Our colleague in New York followed the MSF protocols and guidelines since returning from West Africa," the statement said. It adds:

"As long as a returned staff member does not experience any symptoms, normal life can proceed. Family, friends, and neighbors can be assured that a returned staff person who does not present symptoms is not contagious and does not put them at risk. Self quarantine is neither warranted nor recommended when a person is not displaying Ebola-like symptoms."