Ebola Comes to the Big Apple
Ebola Comes to the Big Apple
Indulge me in a little gallows humor here: this was in my head when I heard about the NYC physician testing positive for Ebola:
“If I can get it there, I can get it anywhere. . .”
(Sung, of course, to the tune of “New York, New York.”)
Yes, Ebola has arrived in New York City, in the person of Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, a physician with the group Doctors Without Borders. He had been in Guinea, West Africa, from September 18 until mid-October, when he flew to Brussels, Belgium. Arriving in New York City on October 17, he was diagnosed with Ebola on Thursday, October 23.
A press conference was held with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the status of Dr. Spencer on the evening of the 23rd. I watched the conference in its entirety as it was streamed through NBC.
Here is a timeline of Dr. Spencer’s activities and illness, as reported at the conference by Dr. Mary Bassett, NYC Health Commissioner:
After he developed symptoms, Dr. Spencer contacted Doctors Without Borders and was admitted to Bellevue Hospital in isolation, where he remains as of this writing. According to Dr. Bassett, he is “fully cooperating” with providing information as to his whereabouts. She also added that his fiancée and two close friends are now quarantined.
As regards Bellevue Hospital, Dr. Bassett stated that Bellevue has developed its own self-contained isolation unit, which is fully stocked. She was questioned by a reporter about the disposal of medical waste; she responded that a contract is in place for its removal.
Dr. Howard Zucker, the acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, indicated that the only place that Dr. Spencer went after developing symptoms was the hospital. He expects him to make a full recovery.
Throughout the conference, Mayor de Blasio, Governor Cuomo, and Drs. Bassett and Zucker kept reiterating how little New Yorkers have to fear about contracting Ebola. Cuomo talked about how eight out of New York State’s approximately 200 hospitals have been designated as part of an Ebola preparedness plan. He said he “knew” that it would arrive eventually. Small wonder, when about 70-100 people from West Africa arrive in NYC daily.
Which gets me to wondering this: How did this physician from Doctors Without Borders contract Ebola in the first place, if he was wearing protective gear? The Ebola epidemic was in full swing during the month he was there. Dr. Kent Brantley, the original “Ebola doctor” from the Samaritans Purse organization, who was treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, is positive he knows where he became infected. In an interview with Greta van Susteren on Fox News Channel, he said he is sure he contracted the disease in the emergency room he served in Liberia. He did not wear protective gear in the ER as he did in the isolation unit. But Dr. Spencer? He stated that he did not believe his protective gear in Guinea had been breached.
Furthermore, while Dr. Spencer has been, in the words of Dr. Mary Bassett, “fully cooperating” with health officials, who is to say that other Ebola victims who arrive here will do likewise? They probably will not be physicians. They may, in fact, lie to health workers, as did Thomas Duncan, the Ebola victim who arrived in Dallas from Liberia, and who later died.
I think it’s a good idea that some hospitals be designated to have fully contained isolation units, as does Bellevue in NYC. You know what is just as good an idea? Halt travel from Ebola-stricken nations, and suspend any visas given to residents of those countries, or at least isolate people — including doctors — from those places for the 21-day incubation period.
Who’s with me?