“There is no reason for New Yorkers to be alarmed,” Mayor Bill De Blasio said.
“We've been preparing for months for the threat posed by Ebola with clear and strong protocols which are being scrupulously followed and were followed in this instance,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. New York has learned from the lessons of Dallas, he added.
“We are as ready as one could be for this circumstance. What happened in Dallas was the opposite. Dallas, unfortunately, was caught before they could handle what they were dealing with,” he said.
Spencer self-monitored his temperature twice a day upon returning, officials said. He did experience fatigue starting Oct. 21, but fatigue is not necessarily a symptom of Ebola. State and city health officials said his fever this morning likely represented the first sign of the virus.
When he discovered that he had developed a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms around 10 or 11 a.m. Thursday, Spencer immediately notified Doctors Without Borders, which contacted the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which contacted the New York City Fire Department for EMS transportation. Spencer was transported by hazmat paramedics with a police escort to Bellevue on Thursday afternoon. His apartment in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood was sealed off to prevent anyone else from entering.
City disease detectives have successfully contacted four people who they say could have been exposed to the virus while in contact with Spencer. They include his fiancée, two friends and a driver for Uber, the mobile app-based car service. City health workers are continuing to contact others who may have come in contact with Spencer, retracing his recent city travels using his New York transit fare card, Bassett said.
Though past U.S. cases have resulted in large lists of possible contacts, Spencer limited his contact, and therefore potentially “exposed very few people” to the virus, Cuomo said, because he “knew exactly what the disease was about and was taking precautions.”
Spencer traveled via the A, L and 1 subway lines after he returned, and also visited the popular High Line elevated park on Manhattan's West Side. He also traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn on Wednesday night to go to The Gutter bowling alley in the trendy Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and used an Uber car to get home. The driver had no direct contact with Spencer and is not believed to be at risk, Mary Bassett, the city's health commissioner, said. One of the three other contacts is being monitored in a hospital, Bassett said.
Bassett maintained that since Spencer was asymptomatic at the time he traveled on the subway, he did not pose a risk to his fellow subway riders.
In Dallas, individuals being monitored for contact with the three Ebola patients treated there were asked to avoid using public transit. De Blasio did not mention the specific travel activity, but said that “being in the same subway car” as an infected individual does not put people at risk.
The CDC had already deployed a Facility Assessment and Support team to New York. A CDC Ebola Response Team is now in transit.
CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, who joined the news conference via speakerphone, said the agency's attention now turns to Bellevue care providers, who are most at risk for contracting the virus from Spencer.
“Right now, the concern is for the healthcare workers who are preparing for him at Bellevue,” Frieden said.
Bellevue has an isolation unit set up to handle Ebola cases. The unit dates to the 1990s when the city was fighting the AIDS epidemic, Bassett said. It includes its own lab, where the preliminary test was done, she said.
“The healthcare workers feel prepared and they feel equipped. They know they were prepared just for this moment,” Cuomo said.
Follow Adam Rubenfire on Twitter: @arubenfire
Follow John N. Frank on Twitter: @MHJFrank