Chances of Ebola Spreading in New York City Low

There is reason to be optimistic that the disease will not spread and the people of New York City will be safe.

Posted on 10/24/14
By Judd Legum | Via ThinkProgress
(Photo by The All-Nite Images, Creative Commons License)
(Photo by The All-Nite Images, Creative Commons License)

This evening, the New York Times confirmed that a doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the Ebola virus. Craig Spencer was working with Doctors Without Borders to provide desperately needed treatment in the West African country.


What You Need to Know About Ebola

  • Ebola is a severe, often fatal disease caused by a virus in humans and non-humans.
  • A large outbreak is now occurring in West African countries: Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. 8,033 total cases resulting in 3,865 (48% case fatality rate) as of October 8, 2014.
  • The New York City Health Department has developed guidance for people who recently traveled to one of the three Ebola-affected countries. If you have not traveled recently to these areas understand that the risk of exposure is minimal.
  • The risk and likelihood of contracting Ebola is very low unless a person has direct unprotected contact with: Blood or other body fluids (stool, urine, saliva, vomit, semen) of an infected person. Infected human and/or non-human remains. Items contaminated with an Ebola patient’s infectious fluids such as soiled clothing or bed linens.
  • You CANNOT contract Ebola through the air or just by being near someone who has been infected.
  • If you visited countries affected by the outbreak, and develop a FEVER within 21 days, seek medical care immediately. Alert the doctor’s office or emergency room about your symptoms BEFORE going.
  • Tell your doctor if you had DIRECT CONTACT with a person who might have had Ebola.


Fever, headache, muscle pain, body aches, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, stomach pain, unexpected bleeding. Hospital staff will not ask you about your immigration status. You will be seen regardless of ability to pay.

For more information, call 311, or click: HERE for the latest information and educational material in multiple languages.

Courtesy NYPD Community Affairs Bureau

While the diagnosis is a serious public health event in a densely packed urban area, there is reason to be optimistic that the disease will not spread and the people of New York City will be safe.


1. According to reports, the doctor reported his condition as soon as he exhibited symptoms. The New York Times reports that Spencer “did not develop a fever until Thursday morning.” He then immediately reported his symptoms and was transported to the hospital by emergency medical workers in protective gear. People with Ebola “cannot spread the disease until they begin to display symptoms.”


2. Spencer’s subway ride on Wednesday night was highly unlikely to pose a danger to fellow travelers. Spencer did ride the New York City Subway on Wednesday night to go bowling. But he was not displaying symptoms at the time. Except in the very sickest patients, the virus is primary “spread through blood, feces and vomit.” As a result, Ebola is “extremely unlikely to spread through public transit.” There has been no documented case of “transmission to a human from a dry surface” like a subway pole. The disease is not airborne.


3. New York City hospitals are prepared. Various hospitals in New York City have been drilling to screen for potential cases of Ebola. Bellevue, where Spencer was transported, was designated to receive suspected or confirmed Ebola cases. Staff is equipped with “Tyvek gowns, a white bodysuit that is impervious to fluids” and other protective gear. Spencer is being treated in one of four isolation rooms. There is also “a separate laboratory in the infectious disease ward to handle Ebola blood samples, so they will not have to be transported around the hospital.”


The crisis, still, is not in New York City but in West Africa. According to the World Health Organization there are nearly 10,000 reported cases and Ebola continues to spread in the region.


This article first appeared in ThinProgress. Click here to go to the original.

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