Earlier this week, a man was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital with a "high fever and gastrointestinal symptoms"—the patient had recently returned from "an Ebola afflicted West African country," which sparked media inanity about Ebola reaching NYC. It thankfully was not Ebola, but it was still a surreal and stressful experience for 27-year-old Brooklyn grad student Eric Silverman. "Even my friends didn’t believe me when I told them I was the mystery patient," Silverman told the News. "They thought I was joking."
Silverman, who lives in Prospect Heights, traveled to Sierra Leone in April for a four-month project to do agriculture and construction work; unbeknownst to him, he was working in the bush in the Kailahun district where cases of Ebola were beginning to emerge. He came back to the US on July 17th, and about two weeks later, started feeling sick. Then last Sunday afternoon, he found himself with a 104 fever and shivering on a hot summer day, which is when he was admitted to the hospital.
"We were just stunned and very concerned for Eric and for our family,” said his mother, Sandra Schpoont, who brought him to the emergency room. "We had just had a family dinner the night before, and everyone was hugging and kissing. Now we were all very worried."
"Only when I woke up on Monday and they wouldn’t let me out of the room, I knew something was wrong," Silverman told the News. "I saw people wearing these space suits and I realized they couldn’t rule out Ebola. They needed to quarantine me until they could confirm it wasn’t." He spent the next 72+ hours in an isolation area, trying to recount everyone he had encountered in Sierra Leone, unable to see his family or friends, and only dealing with a few nurses and doctors at a time.
He did text with one friend, Zak, who couldn't believe his friend was the patient he had heard about on TV. Here's an excerpt of their text conversation:
Eric: I have something crazy to tell you.
Zak: Hahaha something so crazy that you couldn’t wait until noon to share? Are you patient zero at Mount Sinai? I know you were the one to have contracted Ebola…
Eric: Yeah that’s me.
Zak: Haha, tough break, my man. Well you had a pretty good run. Not great, but pretty good.
Eric: Thanks, buddy.
Zak: Haha. What do you have to tell me, though? I mean, it couldn’t wait till after 8:30 so it has to be amazing.
Eric: I just told you. It’s not that amazing, kinda annoying.
Zak: Wait, what? Holy sh--. Are you ok? What’s going on? What are they saying? O jeez, Eric- I’m so sorry. Are they saying that your ok?
Finally, late Wednesday afternoon, the CDC test results came back negative for Ebola. "We all had a huge sense of relief — for him and the staff," said Dr. Charles Powell, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine for the Mount Sinai Health system. But he added that he thinks it's just a matter of time before NYC gets its first real Ebola case: "In my opinion I think we will see a case here. The situation in Africa does not appear to be under control, and it’s so easy to travel from place to place. As a result of this episode, all the health care institutions in New York are going to be well prepared to recognize it early and assemble the procedures to care for these patients."
While Silverman lucked out, millions of people are in danger in Sierra Leone, even at the hospitals. Researchers now believe that Patient Zero in the Ebola outbreak was a two-year-old boy who died on Dec. 6th days after becoming sick. Daily Intel has a nice roundup of how local West African newspapers have been covering the story.