A Harlem doctor who treated Ebola patients in West Africa before returning to New York last week tested positive Thursday for the deadly disease — the first such diagnosis in the city.
Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, was hauled to Bellevue Hospital in a protective suit with symptoms of the illness. Officials said his temperature was normal when he landed at Kennedy Airport a week ago, on Oct. 17. But it spiked to 103 degrees by early Thursday, and he had diarrhea.
Three others — Spencer’s fiancée and two friends — have also been quarantined but have shown no symptoms, according to Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, commissioner of the city’s Health Department.
FDNY hazardous-materials specialists sealed off Spencer’s apartment on W. 147th St. in Harlem’s Hamilton Heights and took the doctor out on a stretcher.
Spencer’s test results were publicly released about 8:30 p.m.
But at 6:20 p.m., the city Health Department sent out an urgent request to all New York area hospitals to see if any had “the following drug: Brincidofovir made by Chimerix.”
The drug is investigational and one medical source told the Daily News it was used successfully in treating at least one Ebola patient in the U.S.
Spencer was working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea. His path back to the city included a stop in Brussels, sources said.
A Bellevue employee told The News that Spencer was in one of four infectious disease rooms at the hospital. Bellevue itself is one of eight hospitals in the state that’s designated to receive Ebola patients.
“He didn’t come through the ER,” the hospital worker said. “He went straight to a quarantine room via the elevator.”
Mayor de Blasio tried to reassure the city.
“There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed,” the mayor said Thursday at a news conference with Gov. Cuomo and Dr. Mary Travis Bassett, commissioner of the city’s Health Department.
“New York has the strategy and public health care system. We had began preparing for months.”
The Governor also chimed in, admitting it’s scary to know the disease is in the city, but adding “the more facts you know, the less frightening the situation is.”
While authorities said Spencer attempted to self-quarantine after feeling ill, and Bassett noted he took his temperature twice a day, he went on a 3-mile run and went bowling. Police first thought he was at a pair of bowling spots in Willliamsburg, Brooklyn, on Wednesday, but later said he was only at one. He took subways — the 1, A and L lines — went to the High Line and a restaurant and took an Uber cab home, officials said.
“We reviewed our records and were able to confirm that one of our driver partners in New York provided a ride to the patient yesterday evening,” Uber said in a statement Thursday night. “We immediately contacted the CDC and NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene … which stated that neither our driver partner nor any of his subsequent passengers are at risk.”
Bassett said Spencer had contact with the Uber driver, his fianceé, and two friends. The friends have been quarantined in their homes. Spencer’s fianceé is at Bellevue. None will be tested unless they show symptoms.
Spencer had not gone back to work yet at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia, the hospital said.
Spencer was at The Gutter on N. 14th St. on Wednesday. Meanwhile, while a police source had said Spencer also visited the Brooklyn Bowl on Wythe Ave., later it was revealed he was not there.
Peter Shapiro, an owner of the bowling chain, insisted on Friday that there was no reason to believe the doctor had shown up at the venue.
“No one contacted us about anything,” Shapiro told the Daily News. “When I called the city, I was told ‘if you haven’t been contacted then you’re in the clear.”
When a reporter went by The Gutter on Thursday, it was closed and a promoter said the bar area, where a concert was supposed to be held, wasn’t happening due to “unforeseen circumstances.”
Brooklyn Bowl, on its Facebook page, said it had not been contacted by authorities.
“We are aware of the reports that an individual who may possibly be infected with Ebola attended an event in Williamsburg last night,” it read.
Doctors Without Borders said in a statement Thursday that the organization’s doctor “notified our office this morning to report having developed a fever.”
Nine doctors from the charitable organization have died from Ebola and 17 infected, according to news reports.
Neighbors said Spencer lived with his fiancée. In an online engagement announcement that describes Spencer as a “goofball,” she is identified as Morgan Dixon. They’re set to marry in September of next year.
An agitated woman who identified herself as Spencer’s fiancée showed up at Bellevue and was held for observation.
While Spencer was placed in an isolation unit at the hospital, city health workers began backtracking his movements since returning from Guinea.
“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,” Bellevue said in a statement.
The Ebola diagnosis was made by the city Health Department. Samples of Spencer’s blood were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for confirmation.
Cuomo earlier Thursday spoke to President Obama’s Ebola czar, Ron Klain, who directed a CDC team to travel to New York to assist at Bellevue as needed, a Cuomo administration official said.
White House officials said Obama was briefed on New York’s situation. He spoke to de Blasio and Cuomo in separate calls after their press conference.
Meanwhile, Robert Cedano, the super in Spencer’s building, said firefighters took the building’s door off its hinges when they removed him.
“Oh, lovely,” said Brooke Christensen, who lives in the building, after learning about her neighbor.
“I’m not concerned,” she said. “I’ve had no fluid exchanges with my neighbors.”
Health care workers handed out flyers in English and Spanish with instructions on what to do if somebody suspects he or she has Ebola.
Dr. Howard Zucker, acting commissioner of the state Health Department, said Spencer is in the right place.
“That facility is prepared and equipped for the isolation, identification, and treatment of any such patients,” he said.
Spencer posted a photo of himself wearing protective gear on Facebook on Sept. 18 while in the Belgian capital of Brussels, a hub for connecting flights to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Off to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders (MSF),” the caption reads. “Please support organizations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent history.”
The Ebola scare in Manhattan erupted amid other developments:
CDC honcho Tom Frieden said he was seeing “signs of progress” in the fight against the disease, which has killed nearly 4,900 people in Africa but just one in the U.S. — a Liberian who was visiting his son in Dallas.
Frieden also called a recent mass training session for health care workers at the Javits Center “very successful” and said the exercise will be repeated next week for health care workers in California.
Frieden spoke a day after the feds imposed new rules requiring all travelers arriving in the U.S. from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone be monitored for three weeks, which is the incubation period for Ebola.
Under the new rules, nine people in Connecticut — none of whom are showing symptoms — have been placed in quarantine.
The African country of Mali announced its first case of Ebola — a 2-year-old girl who had recently been in Guinea.
Mali is the sixth country on the continent to report an Ebola case. Nigeria and Senegal also had Ebola cases — several of them fatal — and are now free of the disease.
With Kerry Burke, Kenneth Lovett, Heidi Evans, Jennifer Fermino, Edgar Sandoval, Doyle Murphy and Frank Green
Here are the facts on the Ebola outbreak:
– Dr. Craig Spencer is the first person in New York and the fourth in the country to test positive for Ebola.
– Only one U.S. patient, Liberian Thomas Duncan, has died from the virus.
– The countries hardest hit by the plague are the West African nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the death rate has risen to 70%.
– In West Africa, 9,936 patients have tested positive for the virus and nearly 5,000 have died.
– Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.
– The virus is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it cannot be transmitted through the air.
– Symptoms include fever, headaches, joint and muscle aches, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and abnormal bleeding.
Sources: The World Health Organization and New York State Department of Health
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