On October 23, 2014, Doctor Craig Spencer tested positive for the Ebola, after being rushed to Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Dr. Spencer had been treating Ebola patients, working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea. He returned to New York City on Oct. 14, 2014 and began to feel “sluggish” on October 21, 2014. Fatigue is one of the symptoms of Ebola.
He traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the subway one day before being hospitalized, then went to a bowling alley and took a taxi home. The very next morning he reported having a temperature of 103 degrees, raising disturbing questions about the possibility of exposing others to the deadly virus. Sweat on the bowling ball might be of particular concern, as a bodily fluid through which Ebola can be transmitted.
Health care workers are now spread out across the city, tracing anyone who might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer in recent days.
The first case of Ebola in New York highlighted the difficulties surrounding containment of the virus in a crowded metropolis. The concrete jungle presents its own challenges. For example, the “disease detectives” would have a hard time locating people who might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer on the subway.
The patient’s apartment in Harlem is sealed off and workers have distributed informational fliers about Ebola. At this point, it’s unclear whether anyone was being quarantined.
He reportedly told the authorities that the protective gear he wore while working with Ebola patients had not been breached. However, the level of protection of the protective gear used in West Africa does not provide Biosafety Level 4 protection (BSL-4) and is therefore not adequate. At the peak of the illness, an Ebola patient can have 10 billion viral particles in one-fifth of a teaspoon of blood. Ebola is more contagious than hepatitis A, B and C, and H.I.V. Researchers can safely study bubonic plague at level 3, but Ebola must be quarantined at Biosafety level 4.
In recent weeks, Germany treated 3 Ebola patients, while implementing the highest level of Biosafety: BSL-4. Due to taking appropriate safety measures, none of the health care workers in Germany have tested positive for Ebola.
Dr. Spencer was placed in a special isolation unit. He is being seen by the pre-designated medical critical care team, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) with undergarment air ventilation systems. This type of protective equipment most likely provides Biosafety Level 3.
A health care worker at the Bellevue Hospital told the New York Times that Dr. Spencer seemed very sick and it was unclear to the medical staff why he had not gone to the hospital earlier, since his fever was high, at 103. Doctors said that it seemed likely that he was infected, even before the results came in. Symptoms usually occur within 8 to 10 days of infection. Dr. Spencer was home for 9 days when he reported feeling ill.