CDC Ebola Response Team Converges on New York City

Three individuals who were in close contact with an Ebola patient have been placed under quarantine.

Officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working to track the movements of a doctor in New York City who tested positive for the Ebola virus on Thursday after returning to the United States from Guinea.

Craig Spencer, MD, was confirmed to be positive for the Ebola virus following his work with patients in West Africa as a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Spencer arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on October 17, 2014, but did not exhibit any symptoms of the virus until yesterday morning, officials said.

Dr. Spencer was subsequently transported by a specially trained HAZ TAC unit wearing personal protective equipment to Bellevue Hospital, which is one of 8 hospitals in the state designated to treat Ebola patients.

“We have been preparing for months for the threat posed by Ebola. We have clear and strong protocols, which are being scrupulously followed and were followed in this instance,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio during a press conference Thursday. “Bellevue Hospital is specially designed for isolation, identification, and treatment of Ebola patients. Every hospital in the city is prepared in the event that other patients come forward.”

Authorities said Dr. Spencer began feeling sluggish a few days ago, but it wasn’t until Thursday morning that he started developing fever, nausea, and pain. A CDC Ebola response team is now working to track down any people who may have been exposed to Dr. Spencer while he was exhibiting symptoms.

“The health department has a team of disease detectives, who have been at work tracing all of the patient’s contacts, and we are prepared to quarantine contacts as necessary,” de Blasio said.

Dr. Spencer’s fiancé and 2 friends have been placed under quarantine and are being actively monitored for the disease. CNN reported that Spencer went for a 3-mile jog and visited a bowling alley in Brooklyn on Wednesday before he became symptomatic.

“There have been reports about the patient’s movements. Again, these medical detectives are at work putting together the pieces of the timeline,” de Blasio said. “But, we emphasize again: Ebola is very difficult to contract. Being on the same subway car or living near a person with Ebola does not in itself put someone at risk. People should rest assured that the extraordinary medical professionals of this city and this state are working to ensure that every protection is in place.”

The CDC Ebola response team has been deployed to the city to assist a team of experts already in place to ensure the potential for an outbreak is rapidly contained.

“These teams assess a facility's infection control readiness and to determine if there are gaps in infection control readiness,” the CDC said in a press release. “They support a facility in developing a comprehensive infection control plan. The principle is to be ready for the patient coming in the front door and everything that happens through the patient's stay in the hospital.”

Dr. Spencer is the fourth person in the United States to test positive for the disease. Ebola index patient Thomas Eric Duncan died from the virus on October 8, 2014, after traveling to Texas from Liberia. A pair of nurses who cared for Duncan also became infected with the virus.

Amber Vinson, 29, is reported to be in stable condition after being transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for additional treatment. Nina Pham, 26, was transferred to a National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland for treatment, where her condition has reportedly improved.

Despite these positive tests, authorities remain confident that the United States can stop an outbreak of the Ebola virus. In a recent Pharmacy Times poll, 77% of respondents indicated that the US health care system is strong enough to contain the virus.

“Ebola is an extremely hard disease to contract. It is transmitted only through contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids—not through casual contact,” de Blasio said. “New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person’s bodily fluids are not at all at risk. And we want to emphasize that New York City has the world’s strongest public health system, the world’s leading medical experts, and the world’s most advanced medical equipment.”