A tide of bile is rising against a doctor who has the first confirmed case of Ebola in New York.
Craig Spencer, a member of Doctors Without Borders, is being treated in an isolation ward at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, a designated Ebola centre.
He was admitted to hospital on Thursday after coming down with a 103-degree fever and diarrhoea, a week after returning from Guinea.
Craig Spencer is being treated in an isolation ward at Manhattan's Bellevue Hospital
Medics in hazmat suits transported him from his apartment to Bellevue in an ambulance surrounded by squad cars.
However, it has since emerged that in the days before he fell ill, Spencer went on a 3-mile jog, rode the subway, caught a taxi and visited a Brooklyn bowling alley.
Health officials have been tracing the 33-year-old’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at risk, but stressed the chances of the average New Yorker catching the virus, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, are slim.
Spencer posted a picture of himself in full protective gear on social media before travelling to Guinea
But some New Yorkers are not feeling reassured. Charles Kerr, 60, told the Associated Press: “Oh my gosh! This changes the situation. The guy must be coughing, sitting against people. Now you’ve got to think.”
Twitter also become an arena for outrage, with even Piers Morgan joining in to ask: “Someone needs to ask these smug officials how many other Ebola-treating doctors are in America – using Subway, Uber & bowling alleys.”
Eric Bolling wrote: “Absolutely no sympathy for a doctor who knows he’s been in contact w/Ebola, goes bowling, takes 2 subways, has contact with girl, Uber. None.”
But Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted:"We want to state at the outset that New Yorkers have no reason to be alarmed.
"New Yorkers who have not been exposed are not at all at risk."
Spencer’s fiancée and two friends have been quarantined but are showing no symptoms as yet.
Spencer works at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, but had not seen any patients or been to the hospital since his return, the hospital said in a statement, calling him a "dedicated humanitarian" who "went to an area of medical crisis to help a desperately underserved population."
Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organisation, said per the guidelines it provides its staff members on their return from Ebola assignments, "the individual engaged in regular health monitoring and reported this development immediately."
Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone must report in with health officials daily and take their temperature twice a day, as Spencer did. He also limited his direct contact with people, health officials said.
According to Spencer’s Facebook page, he left for West Africa via Brussels last month. A photo shows him in full protective gear. He returned to Brussels on 16 October.
"Off to Guinea with Doctors Without Borders," he wrote. "Please support organisations that are sending support or personnel to West Africa, and help combat one of the worst public health and humanitarian disasters in recent history."
The epidemic in West Africa has killed about 4,800 people. In the United States, the first person diagnosed with the disease was a Liberian man, who fell ill days after arriving in Dallas and later died, becoming the only fatality. None of his relatives who had contact with him became ill.
Two nurses who treated him were infected and are hospitalised. The family of one nurse said doctors no longer could detect Ebola in her as of Tuesday evening.
Four American aid workers, including three doctors, were infected with Ebola while working in Africa and were transferred to the U.S. for treatment in recent months. All recovered. Health care workers are vulnerable because of close contact with patients when they are their sickest and most contagious.
In West Africa this year, more than 440 health workers have contracted Ebola and about half have died. But the Ebola virus is not very hardy. The CDC says bleach and other hospital disinfectants kill it. Dried virus on surfaces survives only for several hours.