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What You Need to Know About the Ebola Virus in NYC

By Jeff Mays | October 24, 2014 5:22pm
 The city is prepared to handle Ebola cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday  after the city announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed the Ebola diagnosis of a Harlem doctor who had recently returned from the West African nation of Guinea. "There is no cause for alarm. New Yorkers need to understand the situation is being handled and being handled well," said de Blasio. Here's what you need to know about Ebola in New York City.
What New Yorkers Should Know About Ebola
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MANHATTAN — As the city grapples with its first Ebola case, concern has set in among some New Yorkers as to how the deadly disease is transmitted.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city officials cautioned residents that there wasn't much to worry about because the disease could only be transmitted via direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

"There is no cause for alarm," de Blasio said. "New Yorkers need to understand the situation is being handled and being handled well."

Here's what you need to know about the virus, the case in New York City and how to protect yourself.

Who has contracted Ebola in new York City?

Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, who treated Ebola patients in Guinea through Doctors Without Borders, fell ill with a 100.3-degree fever on Thursday morning and was rushed from his West 147th Street home in West Harlem to Bellevue Hospital, where he was quarantined, officials said.

City officials announced late Thursday that Spencer had tested positive for the virus. The diagnosis was confirmed Friday by federal authorities.

Three other people who had close contact with Spencer, including his fiancèe Morgan Dixon, are currently under quarantine orders from the Health Department for 21 days from their last contact with Spencer. An Uber drive who drove Spencer on Wednesday has been cleared.

Spencer is the only person to be diagnosed with the disease in New York City since the virus outbreak began in West Africa this summer.

Thomas Eric Duncan, a 42-year-old man visiting Dallas contracted Ebola in Liberia. He died on Oct. 8. Since then, two nurses who provided Duncan with care have also contracted the virus. One of the nurses has recovered.

The Department of Health says there are no other confirmed Ebola cases in New York City.

What is being done about people entering the country from the West African nations affected by Ebola?

The federal government has set up screening at the five airports around the country, including JFK and Newark, where passengers from the three West African nations dealing with Ebola outbreaks, are designated to arrive.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new protocol where travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will be monitored 21 days after their arrival by local health department officials.

That includes daily calls from the health department as individuals monitor themselves for Ebola symptoms. CDC is assisting with the monitoring effort.

How is Ebola spread.

To contract Ebola, you must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person while that person is displaying symptoms of the virus such as a fever, vomiting and diarrhea, health officials say. Those most at risk include health care workers who are traveling to West Africa to try and help squelch the outbreak.

What do I do if I think I've been infected, or have come into contact with an infected person?

First, New Yorkers should be sure they have met the criteria for an Ebola infection. That includes travel to one of the three affected West African nations or direct and intimate contact with someone with Ebola.

"Only through that direct and intimate contact can the disease be transmitted," said de Blasio.

Secondly, they should be displaying symptoms of the disease such as vomiting, fever or diarrhea.

If New Yorkers suspect they meet the criteria, they should call 911 or get to the nearest emergency room, said the mayor.

"Do not wait. Do not hesitate. Do not wait to see if you get better. Do not go to a private doctor's office," said de Blasio.

Are city hospitals prepared to deal with Ebola?

The city says yes.

The mayor said that the city's medical personnel has been trained to spot Ebola symptoms. Dr. Ram Raju, head of the city's Health and Hospitals Corporation, said every hospital in the city has been trained to spot and isolate someone with Ebola symptoms. Emergency medical personnel have been trained to safely transport possible Ebola patients to the hospital.

The city's labs are also capable of testing for Ebola.

Last week Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated four city hospitals— Mt. Sinai, New York-Presbyterian and Bellevue in Manhattan and Montefiore in The Bronx — as designated Ebola treatment centers.

Cuomo also announced that surprise drills were being conducted in area hospitals and the subways to prepare for possible Ebola cases.

► Should New Yorkers be worried?

According to the CDC, the risk for an outbreak in the U.S. is very low. Ebola is spread through contact with a person's bodily fluids while they are exhibiting symptoms.

"Few people should be at risk because the risk is primarily related to those who have traveled to one of the countries suffering this crisis," de Blasio said earlier this month.

Protocols are also in place to prevent the spread of the disease.

"The way to contain Ebola is the same way we contain measles," de Blasio said. "Diagnose, isolate, and treat. It’s a straightforward protocol."