The doctor who had been in West Africa, treating Ebola patients, has tested positive for Ebola. Dr. Craig Spencer has been quarantined at Bellevue, and NYC Mayor de Blasio, NY Governor Cuomo and New York health officials are holding a press conference; de Blasio emphasized, "There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed.. This is a very difficult disease to contract."
Dr. Craig Spencer returned to his home in Harlem from Guinea last Friday, October 17. He had been checking his temperature twice a day, and today, he had a fever of 100.3 degrees. NYC officials said that yesterday he traveled, via the 1 and L trains, to Williamsburg to bowl at The Gutter. Then he took an Uber back to his home in Harlem. NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett added that Spencer was also at the High Line and ate at The Meatball Shop.
Officials repeatedly stated that Spencer was not exhibiting symptoms, making it extremely unlikely that anyone was exposed to the sickness—Ebola is not airborne and Bassett said, "People with Ebola are contagious when they are sick, and what's contagious about them are body fluids."
The mayor and governor emphasized that the response after the doctor became feverish was thorough, pointing out he is a "meticulous" health professional. NY State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said he'd take the subway tomorrow.
Spencer is in isolation at Bellevue Hospital, and his girlfriend and two friends are in the process of being quarantined as well (health officials said that since the girlfriend and friends are not ill, there's no reason to test them). Uber issued a statement, “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. We immediately contacted the CDC and NYC Department of Health and Mental Health Hygiene which stated that neither our driver partner nor any of his subsequent passengers are at risk. We have communicated this to the driver, and the NYC DOHMH medical team met with the drive run person, assuring him that he is not a risk. our thoughts are with the patient and his loved ones."
The Gutter has been closed "out of an abundance of caution." The bands Gimme Tinnitus and Mirror Universe Tapes cancelled their Friday night show there.
Spencer was in Guinea with Doctors Without Borders. According to the Post, "An army of emergency vehicles swarmed Spencer’s block around noon and completely shut the street down. A witness saw a person huddled in a wheelchair and swaddled in blankets being lifted onto a stretcher and into an ambulance. FDNY specialists in hazmat suits sealed off his fifth-floor apartment, sources said. Spencer was taken to Bellevue, which has been outfitted to treat any Ebola cases that arise in New York." His girlfriend, Morgan Dixon, "was picked up at her Downtown Brooklyn office on Thursday afternoon."
According to the NY Times, "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." De Blasio did say, "Being on the same subway car, or living near a person with Ebola, does not in itself put someone at risk."
The CDC stated, "Confirmation testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's laboratory will be done. The healthcare worker had returned through JFK Airport on Oct. 17 and participated in the enhanced screening for all returning travelers from these countries. He went through multiple layers of screening and did not have a fever or other symptoms of illness. The patient reported a fever to local health officials for the first time today. The patient was transported by a specially trained HAZ TAC unit wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Bellevue."
One person who was at The Gutter last night spoke to the Observer: Todd Owyoung said he was there from 6-9 p.m., "It’s definitely concerning. I’d love to know when he was there and hopefully if there was overlap and so forth, but we’re sort of waiting. Hopefully he was there after we bowled." Also: "While officials have said the virus can be contacted only through direct contact with bodily fluids of a symptomatic person, Mr. Owyoung pointed out that plenty of people touch the same items inside a bowling alley. 'I was using the same ball, but in general, it’s a place where people are using rental shoes and trying out different bowling balls.'"
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The NY Times has this explainer, Can You Get Ebola From a Bowling Ball?:
A. Dr. Craig Spencer, the patient with Ebola currently in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center, went bowling in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on Wednesday evening. According to city health officials, he had been taking his temperature twice a day since he left Guinea on Oct. 14. His temperature was normal on Wednesday evening, and he did not yet have any other symptoms, such as nausea or diarrhea. Ebola experts say the disease cannot be transmitted before the appearance of symptoms.
Although the surface of a shared bowling ball is a likely place to find germs — and some people avoid bowling for this very reason — it is extremely unlikely that Ebola could be passed that way. There is no evidence that it has been passed, as colds or flu sometimes are, by touching surfaces that someone else touched after sneezing into their hand. Ebola is normally passed through contact with blood, vomit or diarrhea.
If someone left blood, vomit or feces on a bowling ball, and the next person to touch it did not even notice, and then put his fingers into his eyes, nose or mouth, it might be possible. But, the Ebola virus does not not normally build up to high levels in saliva or mucus until very late in the disease — several days after the initial fever sets in — and it is unlikely that someone that ill would have just gone bowling. Also, the Ebola virus is fragile and susceptible to drying out. It does not normally survive for more than a few hours on a hard, dry surface.
Cue the "EBOWLA" headlines from the tabloids.